Endangered Species: “Made in USA” – An Interview With Zac and Sara Painter of Loggerhead Apparel

As I  promised on my first post about Loggerhead Apparel and their amazing “Imported from South Carolina” endeavor, I follow up with  an interview with the two young but restless owners. Zac and Sara Painter were kind enough to answer a few questions and shed some light over the challenges and hurdles they had to overcome to launch and make their Bellwether360 Polos a great success. They have an amazing story to tell, and I am fascinated by their perspective on the textile industry. The tragic destiny of the loggerhead turtles seems to make a perfect match with the trends of the manufacturing industry in United States. Zac and Sara’s business approach makes me believe there is still hope! They are young, they are passionate and they are very skilled and talented! Their message resonates very loudly with my own vision and helps me articulate it better: We in the fashion and style industry have an endangered species to help out, called “Made in USA!” Lean back, relax, and enjoy the interview…

Q. How did you two meet and how did you know you were meant to be together and do business together?
A. We met at Erwin Penland Advertising, which we both joined in Account Management roles in May of 2005, and began dating a little over 2 years later. Having worked closely in stressful situations, we knew we could depend on each other for advice and support – and several years later when we began discussing the company, we knew each of us would have a talented, resourceful and driven partner.

Q. When did you first get into the apparel business? How did you know this is the business you wanted to be in?
A. Loggerhead Apparel is our first foray into the apparel business. It was something both of us had a keen interest in, and we felt that we could be successful if we found the right partners. Our backgrounds in marketing, business and public relations would bring a lot to the table once we partnered with individuals and companies that had a knowledge of the apparel manufacturing business.

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Style Strand Fashion - Loggerhead Apparel

Zac & Sara involved with the design and production line

Q. How do you handle the difference of opinions related to business?
A. Each of us have our strengths – Sara handles most of our communications efforts, retailer relations and the management of the day-to-day business, while Zac manages most of the manufacturing process, the apparel design and vendor relations. We also have several others that work with us in various areas: Marc Del Vecchio is our Creative Manager, so he’s behind all of our marketing design efforts, as well as much of the art that goes on our t-shirts, belts and promotional items. Chris Brady manages our website and email marketing, and Rich Painter, Zac’s brother, is a CPA and handles all of the accounting and financials.

Q. Why “Loggerhead?” Why investing in conservation and endangered species in such a tough and competitive market?
A. It’s really a parallel of what we saw happening with U.S. manufacturing – unless we change what we’re doing, U.S. manufacturing could continue to decline. If we act now, we can reverse that trend. This is also true of the loggerhead sea turtle – populations have been in decline for years, but there are steps we can take, and are taking, to bring those populations back. Our hope is that our brand would be considered more than a shirt – it’s a conversation piece. There’s a story behind it, and a mission, which gives us an edge in this competitive segment.

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Style Strand Fashion - Loggerhead Apparel

Sara holding a loggerhead turtle while involved in a project to protect them

Q. How did you come up with the Bellwether360 Polos concept?
A. A ‘bellwether’ is defined as the first of something, or a trendsetter. We felt our polo was truly different than the vast array of other polos in the market – a shirt sourced from the ground up in the United States, from the cotton to the manufacturing.

Q. How hard it is to launch and maintain an “All-American” brand?
A. It can be difficult – things are certainly cheaper to have manufactured overseas. And, because so many U.S. companies have gone out of business because of this trend in outsourcing, it can be tough to find vendors in the United States that can produce our apparel and accessories to our requirements that everything in the product must be of U.S. origin.

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Style Strand Fashion - Loggerhead Apparel

Zac nesting the loggerhead sea turtles eggs.

Q. What are a few of the challenges of keeping the production in South Carolina?
A. Now that we have our system in place, it’s a huge convenience and not a challenge. The challenge was finding the right people in the beginning. But now, we have our core group of vendors and are enjoying all of the conveniences of having the vast majority of the manufacturing happening within driving distance of our offices.

Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. We want to take Loggerhead Apparel as far as we possibly can. We’ve seen great growth over our two years in business and hope to continue that in the years to come through expansion of our product line, our marketing and public relations efforts, and continued support of our sea turtle conservation partners. To date, we’ve donated over $30,000 to our conservation partners, and as our sales grow, that number will grow with it.

About 

Emanuela Neculai is a fashionista with European background, currently living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA. As a teenager Emanuela has been influenced by the Eastern European culture and fashion trends. The European elegant style has left a strong mark on her taste and preferences. Follow Emanuela on Google+

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