How Norcross-based Alternative makes its Eco-Jersey T-shirt

Mastering the basics isn’t simple
Illustration by Josh Mckenna
Illustration by Josh Mckenna

Twenty years ago, Alternative Apparel (recently rebranded as Alternative) got its start stamping logos on tees and hats for local businesses. “But the T-shirts were terrible, all heavy and scratchy,” says CEO Evan Toporek. Within the year, the Norcross-based company was producing its own. Now it’s known for an ecoconscious mission and uber-soft hoodies, tanks, and tees. But mastering the basics isn’t simple. Below, the process for an Eco-Jersey T-shirt.

An Alternative designer creates a pattern. (Design offices are in the process of returning to Atlanta from L.A.)

In North Carolina, organic cotton from Texas and recycled plastics are woven together with rayon to create a triblend yarn.

The yarn spools are sent to Miami, where they’re fed into vintage knitting machines to produce fabric with tiny imperfections for that broken-in look and feel.

Next, the fabric is doused in low-emission dyes to create at least 20 different hues, including baked apple and dusk blue. It’s then rinsed in reclaimed water.

Fabric is cut and sewn into shirts at a partner factory in the Dominican Republic, which is certified as a fair and safe workplace by a third-party nonprofit.

Garments arrive at the headquarters in Norcross and await shipment to retailers like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and its shops in L.A., San Francisco, and New York. Next stop? Your top drawer.

This article originally appeared in our September 2015 issue under the headline “Technique to a tee.”