American Apparel Alums Set Out To Make The Perfect Shirt — Behold, The Trash Tee

When a duo of longtime American Apparel alums join forces to launch their own fashion endeavor, it'd make sense for high-quality cotton basics to factor heavily into the equation. That's certainly the case with Everybody, the direct-to-consumer online retailer launched in November by Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo. Alonzo spent 11 years at American Apparel as creative director, while Crespo was with the almost-extinct vertically-integrated retailer as graphics and childrenswear director for a decade and a half; both decamped in 2015.
The concept for Everybody: a clothing and "lifestyle goods" company that's made by, and for, "everybody," partners with a wide range of individuals from all sorts of industries and walks of life, on one-off product drops, multiple times per month. It's a refreshing, quirky antidote to the anonymous-feeling fast fashion buys and endless designer collabs that tend to populate our closets. One of the products that Alonzo and Crespo launched their intriguing new project with really speaks to their shared former stomping grounds: the Classic Trash Tee, which is completely comprised of recycled cotton, versus a mix of cotton and synthetic fibers. Beyond these tees, other current clothing items available include "Prakash's Perfect Button-Up," designed by a "74-year-old spiritualist and chess enthusiast with classic, unassuming style," who's played chess for three decades across the street from Alonzo's L.A. abode. Talk about having a deeply personal backstory behind your outfit.
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Now, Alonzo and Crespo are rolling out colorful iterations of the Trash T-shirt, available in four hues (the tee was originally offered solely in white) and three cuts, available for $25 at Everybody.world. Ahead, the duo filled us in on the how the tees are made, how they're using their collective American Apparel chops to create perfect cotton basics, and what's next for Everybody.
How did you come up with the concept of the Trash tee?
Carolina Crespo: "We wanted to make basics from 100% recycled materials, but the only fabric out there was a blend of recycled cotton with polyester. We wanted our first basics to be 100% cotton, so we set out to find a way to make it happen."
How exactly are the Trash tees made?
IA: "We work with a huge cotton yarn factory to collect the waste fibers from their yarn manufacturing process. At the end of the day, they have big bales of what looks like cotton dust bunnies that would ordinarily be down-cycled or disposed of. They produce 500,000 pounds of waste a week at just one of their plants in the South. To put that into context, one T-shirt is about a half pound of cotton. We take the dust bunny bales, clean them, and send what’s left through the yarn-making process again. We then have cones of yarn made completely from waste! Those cones get freighted to L.A., where we work with a knitter to make our jersey. Then we cut, sew, and dye each garment in various small, ethical factories in South L.A."
What’s the customer response been like to the Trash tees so far?
CC: "Our customers say they love them! We’ve had a lot of re-orders and referrals since we launched a few months ago. The feedback is that the shirts are sturdier and feel soft-yet-substantial – and a welcome shift from the ultra lightweight and usually faux broken-in stuff that’s been around for the last several years. We just added colors to match the rest of our collection, which people seem to be excited about too."
What other “Trash” items besides T-shirts do you plan to roll out in the future?
IA: "Just about everything made from cotton! The easiest for research and development for us are knits, because we make them a few miles from our HQ in L.A., so first we want to experiment with fleece in various weights, ribbed textiles, mixing in Spandex, sweater materials and more. Denim would also be huge, but no one does it in L.A., so we’ll have to find the right partner for that, probably in the South."
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Any T-shirt pet peeves you aimed to avoid or fix with the Trash tees?
IA: "We can’t stand when you buy something and love it, then wash it and it’s just not the same, and you find yourself never wearing it again. We pre-wash our shirts, and most of our garments, actually, so they don’t shrink and we did a lot of washing and wearing, and even sleeping in, our clothes before we launched to make sure our shirts get better with age."
What sorts of expansion plans are in store for Everybody?
IA: "Wholesale! We want artists, musicians, non-profits and other brands to use our Trash Tees to make and sell their own eco-ethical merch. We’ve done a lot of work to set up our printing, dyeing, embroidering, tie-dye supply chain and are excited to offer that to others that want to make stuff."
How have customers been responding to Everybody's concept since launching?
IA: "The best feedback is that people do care about where and how things are made and want to buy from companies that share their values. As we were setting up our business, so many industry veterans rolled their eyes and said we were wasting our time by trying to be ethical, sustainable and tasteful but for us, there was no alternative. Since we launched in November, we’ve discovered that the concept of voting with your dollar is real – and, since the presidential election, perhaps, more relevant than ever."
As American Apparel alums, what sorts of fit and fabric qualities make the perfect T-shirt?
CC: "The fabric has to feel good. It’s a hard thing to put into words, but you either love to put something on, or you don’t. For the fit, we wear T-shirts every day so we wanted different options for different days and body types. We have our Tailored Trash Tee, which has a longer, narrower fit and a slightly extended sleeve; our Boxy Trash Tee that floats off the body, hits at the hip and has a wide neck and cropped sleeve; and our Classic Trash Tee, which has an easy, unisex cut."
How did your time at American Apparel influence what you’re doing with Everybody?
IA: "After working in a vertically integrated factory for a combined 26 years, we know how much skill, knowledge, and humanity goes into making a garment. There were close to 5,000 highly skilled garment workers at American Apparel; each and every person has a rich life marked by happy and sad days, car payments, favorite foods, political beliefs and family, just like we all do. When you’re shopping in a big store with a million garments looking for the lowest price, it’s easy to forget how many people have worked so hard to make each piece perfect."
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