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AAPN Celebrates 25 Years

The Atlanta-based American Apparel Producers’ Network (AAPN), formed in 1981 as the Garment Association of Georgia, is celebrating a quarter century of service to the apparel industry.

AAPN was founded by Don Strickland as an association of apparel contractors with the aim of providing low-cost worker’s compensation insurance to its members. As its membership grew to include cut-and-sew companies nationwide, its name was changed to American Apparel Contractors Association (AACA). In 1994, it became the first apparel organization to create an on-line membership list for sourcing, and in 1996 — with the expertise of Mike Todaro, now managing director, who came on board in 1995 to head marketing and technology initiatives — it established a website that included a membership database.

In 1998, AACA became AAPN, a name that better reflected the organization’s membership makeup and its function as a networking body. In fact, AAPN is more than a network of domestic apparel producers and contractors, and today has members from every continent and representing every link in the global apparel supply chain — from yarn and fabric suppliers, cut-and-sew contractors and sourcing companies to shipping and logistics providers, customs brokers, resource and information management systems providers, and related service providers.

“I’ve seen two things every year I’ve been here,” said Sue Strickland, executive director, who took charge of the organization upon the death of her husband, Don, in 1990. “[F]irst, new technology from us for our members. Second, far fewer organizations in this industry. There were dozens of associations 10 years ago; today, only a handful. There’s a relationship there. In organizations like ours, meaning matters, or else.”

AAPN has evolved with the changing apparel business landscape; and it prides itself on being “ literally a network [with] … no legislative agenda, geographical boundaries, special interests, need for high dues or expensive sponsorship.” Member services include research, special projects and meetings, and team building.

“We’ve changed from a USA contractor-centric outfit to become the industry’s only global supply chain organization,” Strickland said. “[W]e have 230 members, 10 percent of whom were members 10 years ago. In 1981, we started with one contractor in south Georgia. Today, the sun never sets on the AAPN.”

March/April 2006