A diversified premier apparel company, Hybrid Apparel has grown from its roots as a t-shirt shop into a private-label and licensing distributor serving men, women and children. Based in the United States, the company services all tiers and trade channels of distribution, as well as large and small retailers.
“When you look at how much we do, it can be overwhelming,” President and Chairman Jarrod Dogan says. “On the branded side of our business, we have to be very focused on the individual brand. On entertainment licensing, we have to be on top of what is going on so we can seize the next opportunity.”
Based on its core product line for men and boys, Hybrid Apparel created a sizeable t-shirt business as a private-label house. Eventually, it got into the licensed product business, working with brands such as the WWE and Disney, and the company took off.
“Those two properties put us on the map and helped us get into the licensed world,” Chief Marketing Officer Gavin Dogan says. “After that, we made an acquisition of what was more of a sportswear company that made true cut-and-sew products. That is what allowed us to partner with brands like Levi’s and Reebok.”
As Hybrid Apparel’s product mix has expanded, the company also has expanded distribution channels and gotten into the wholesale clubs and dollar stores and continues to grow in the specialty markets. It has steadily expanded its licensing business and now has a solid stable of about 52 licenses.
Although the company has traditionally been focused on products for men and boys, it now has a fast-growing girls and juniors division, boasting 100 percent growth vs. last year. It can do all this thanks to a competitive edge that has grown from its distribution method.
“We have the size and scope of operations that makes us one of a few companies that has a t-shirt business, fast fashion and true, branded sportswear,” Gavin Dogan says. “There is no competitor that has the exact same business model as we do. We will continue to focus on distribution, bringing ideas to retailers that no one else is bringing.”
As the company has grown its licenses, it has been careful to build a portfolio that has ample connections within its collections. This is a service to retailers, who group together specific categories. When Hybrid Apparel considers new licenses, it works to make sure that they fit in well with some part of the Hybrid Apparel product assortment.
“We have the right breadth of product assortment,” VP of Licensing Derrick Baca says. “In licensing, there are a few evergreen properties, but pop culture drives consumers toward what they like. We have to be able to react to those trends.”
Obviously, creativity is hugely important for Hybrid Apparel. The company has a large creative team of between 50 and 60 people. Although they are grouped into teams that focus on different areas of the business, all of Hybrid’s creative people regularly come together to get ideas from everyone.
“We talk about graphic trends, cut-and-sew trends,” Gavin Dogan says. “I want our creative teams to get out and shop, visit different places and browse online. They need to get into environments that help them be creative. We’ve tried to build a culture that promotes creativity by being on our toes about where we are headed, and speaking to buyers at all times about where they are headed.”
Hybrid Apparel is particularly excited about its work with Zappar, a U.K.-based company that created apparel that is infused with augmented reality technology. The t-shirts literally come to life through mobile devices. Hybrid Apparel is working to bring them to the United States, even partnering with competitors because it knows it can’t take on every license itself and the value-add that comes with the Zappar-powered t-shirt is worth the effort.
Another big focus for Hybrid Apparel is on Made in America products. This is an election year, and there has been a lot of talk of manufacturing returning home. Hybrid Apparel recognizes that there is a greater demand for Made in America products, so it has been working on some product lines that are 100 percent made in the United States.
In the years ahead, Hybrid Apparel feels its internal innovation and speed to retail will help it cope well in an environment where retail inventories have been slashed. It has positioned itself as a fast fashion company, and it is always looking for the next big licensing opportunities. The company will continue to put a great deal of focus on its front-end development process and back-end execution, ensuring it has a best-in-class infrastructure and a cutting-edge design team that is out in front of the trends and can maintain a rapid speed to retail.
“We are one of the largest privately owned manufacturers on the West Coast,” Jarrod Dogan says. “But even though we have grown to the size we are at now, we still remain nimble and fast. We make decisions and stick with it. We can turn on a dime and make things happen. Our nature and culture is all about moving fast.”