Homemade cotton cloth

  @FortuneMagazine December 20, 2013: 3:23 PM ET
FIO13 cotton bale

At Enfield Cotton Gin in North Carolina, an employee lifts a 5,000-pound cotton bale with a forklift before it travels up American Giant's supply chain.


For the past year the San Francisco-based apparel company American Giant has had a very nice problem indeed: Soaring demand for its signature hoodie made it very difficult for the company to keep the item in stock. Last December, when a web story about American Giant appeared under the headline THIS IS THE GREATEST HOODIE EVER MADE, it did $500,000 in sales over the following 24 hours. By the end of the week the company was sold out. It spent the next nine months ramping up production. CEO Bayard Winthrop, a 44-year-old former investment banker, says his three-year-old company had boosted production capacity 20-fold over the past year by adding sewing lines at three factories in North Carolina and another in Los Angeles -- with one unexpected twist: Months earlier it had moved Giant's fabric sourcing back to America too.

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