Newsmaker: AST Sportswear Inherits Title of Large T-shirt Maker in the United States

For years, AST Sportswear operated under the radar in Orange County, Calif.

Even though it was a huge, vertically integrated T-shirt maker, a lot of people had not heard of the company, which has been making T-shirts, sweatshirts, safety wear, caps, aprons and tote bags for more than 20 years under the Bayside label.

Little did they know that this big clothing company started by four brothers in 1995 was about to take over the title of the largest vertically integrated T-shirt manufacturer in the United States.

That happened after American Apparel declared bankruptcy for the second time, closed down its Los Angeles factory with 3,500 workers in early 2017 and sold its brand name to Gildan, based in Montreal.

With American Apparel mostly out of the local manufacturing scene, AST Sportswear acquired two former American Apparel facilities in the South Bay area of Los Angeles: a knitting facility in Carson, Calif., and a dyeing and finishing facility in Hawthorne, Calif.

These two new facilities were added to the company’s 115,000-square-foot headquarters in Brea, Calif., where 300 sewing workers are employed, and to the unionized sewing facility in Huntington Park, Calif., which makes T-shirts for unionized workers.

The Rashid brothers started the company shortly after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994 because they saw many manufacturers shifting production to Mexico to make T-shirts. But they believed there was a demand for just-in-time delivery on goods that needed to be made domestically, and they were right.

For the first couple of years, the brothers were doing it all—from answering phones and taking orders to sticking mailing labels onto hundreds of cardboard boxes.

As the company’s orders mushroomed, so did the staff. Now oldest brother Mohammed is a manager; Ali, the next oldest, is the chief executive officer; Abdul, the third oldest, is the chief operating officer; and Omar, the youngest, is the chief financial officer.

The company’s motto is: “From dirt to shirt.”