Building Resilience With Bella & Canvas's President Chris Blakeslee

Oct 24, 2020, 12:00 PM

Why is there a t-shirt shortage? What happened when COVID hit Bella + Canvas? What's next for the screen print industry? You've got questions, and Bella + Canvas President Chris Blakeslee has answers!
In 2020, the screen print industry has been hard hit. From the lack of events to shortages in common t-shirts and larger sizes, it's been a struggle. And for the 1,000+ people team based out of Los Angeles that makes up Bella + Canvas, it's been no exception. "One of my biggest focal points has been keeping up with production. Right when we got stock and production where we wanted it to be, the pandemic hit," Chris explained.
While Bella + Canvas operates the biggest automated cutting facility in the world in their LA campus (and dyes their fabrics in the US as well), closing a 2.1M square foot facility was no simple task. They originally projected a sharp drop in demand, but have far outpaced their initial projections after weathering a challenging 30 day period. "When lots of businesses were closing, we were busier than we had ever been before in terms of management, production, operations, and customer interaction," Chris said.
You'll hear why there's been a shortage of t-shirts and sweatshirts this year, why it's hard to find the extra large sizes in stock, and even what the future of screen printing holds. Chris also offers an honest take on what it means to be a leader in such difficult times: "I know in our industry, one of my favorite things about this whole process – so many companies did so many things to adapt and pivot. They did an incredible job finding ways to survive and keep their people employed. It really was that entrepreneurial spirit, which is our industry. There are lots of people that did just as good as I did in lots of businesses."
Want to see the highlights? Click a timestamp to jump to that topic:
8:45 What happened with the first Bella + Canvas face coverings? "We were introduced to some people close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force right in the middle of March."
12:00 Why some print shops weren't happy with Bella + Canvas (and how they made it right). "If I could go back, I would have called it a face cover right off the bat."
13:30 What Bella + Canvas' ultimate goal is: make profitable products for print shops. "We have always tried to create products that allow our customers, particularly decorators, to buy them, embellish them, and sell them at a much higher price and make a much stronger margin."
14:10 How COVID affected the supply chain for the screen printing industry. "The reaction to things get amplified every time you go a step further up the supply chain."
19:25 Why is there a t-shirt shortage? "Sewing became a total bottleneck."
22:10 Why XL and larger size t-shirts and garments are hard to get right now – from the President of Bella + Canvas! "Each supplier got bought out in successive order."
28:00 How Chris faces the challenges of leading a big company like Bella + Canvas. "You have to overcommunicate. You have to be very compassionate for your people."
32:10 Where is the industry going for now and what is the company planning for? "All of that consumer-facing purchased merchandise is doing surprisingly well. While the big 'giveaway' and events space is doing terribly."
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