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Organic, recycled clothing brand moves in next door to American Apparel

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, November 09, 2012, at 11:16AM

A rack of Groceries items hanging in their office.

DTLA-based clothing manufacturer Groceries Apparel is settling into their new factory and offices in Alameda Square, just a stones throw from the company that in some ways has been their inspiration: American Apparel.

“Our goal is to move and create a demand for organic on a mass scale,” said Groceries President and founder Robert Lohman.

Lohman said that although its three-year-old wholesale and distribution business is still much smaller than American Apparel, Groceries respects the way the cotton clothing king has created local jobs and blazed their own path.

But Groceries is trying to corner a different market; the all-organic clothing maker already produces more than 200 different styles made entirely in the U.S. and from recycled materials.

“We're not just a green business," Lohman said. "We can compete as a regular business, but do things the way we want to do them.”

By the end of this year, Lohman said Groceries will have about 60 employees, all of who will be working out of their new 33,000-square-foot industrial space in Downtown which allows the company to be more efficient with its operations.

Groceries is young -- Lohman himself is 29 and the business has been up-and-running about three years. Their previous location near Urth Caffe was about half the size of their new digs, said Lohman, so not only does the extra space allow them room to grow but Groceries will now offer tours of the space to show their customers the real circumstances under which their employees work.

Lohman went to college at UCSB and majored in environmental studies. He said many of his professors taught him that his business doesn't need to be pigeon-holed as "boutique" or "green" -- he can compete at the level of mainstream companies but maintain the practices he chooses.

“I think what happened with us is right now people call it a niche, but it really has an opportunity to grow into a mainstream thing,” said Lohman.

Before he started manufacturing organic tees, Lohman was working out of his Venice Beach garage and printing his designs on American Apparel shirts. He decided to start his own operation; manufacturing everything in the U.S. from recycled cotton, denim, hemp and other materials.

Now Groceries produces t-shirts, skirts, overalls, shorts and hundreds of other basics, in whimsical sounding colors such as "Ceviche," "Goji Berry" and "Poolside." Lohman said although they aim to be completely chemical-free, certain dyes are still needed to get their range of diverse colors -- but its something they're working on.

Currently, Groceries sells to about 300 retailers worldwide, including upscale chains such as Kitson, Planet Blue and Barneys.

Groceries sells items wholesale starting at about $5 a piece for a basic crew neck tee -- then, the retail stores mark that price up sometimes by as much as five times the original amount. The company also sells to companies such as Coca-Cola and Paul Mitchell, who use the shirts for promotional campaigns -- much like many people do with American Apparel tees.

Also coming soon to Alameda Square are clothing companies Splendid and Ella Moss. Both are expected to relocate their corporate headquarters to the Downtown spot in Spring 2013.

Groceries Apparel is located at 767 Alameda in Building #2


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