East Syracuse business wins multi-million dollar federal contract

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EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Right in East Syracuse, female-owned American Fashion Network just won a nearly $47 million bid with the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Now in its 16th year, this is the biggest project the company has ever taken on.

“This is a big opportunity not only for this company but also for the community,” said Jackie Wilson, Owner and CEO of American Fashion Network.

They’re providing workout wear for Marines who haven’t seen a change in their fitness training uniforms in decades. Those at AFN are working to change that. The government designed it all, and they worked with American suppliers to get it done.

“So every component of this item, the short and the pant and the shirt have to be made in the united states, down to the thread, ” said Tara Gillen, Director of Merchandising and Sourcing for Corporate Apparel and Government Contracting at AFN. “We were sourcing and finding suppliers. And then we also have sewers who put the product together. So while we were sourcing all the products, we have an amazing technical design team who worked through all of the patterns that came from the government and helped us work with the manufacturers to put the product together.”

By June, the company will be sending out 150 sets to the Marines. They’ll be testing out the product and then the big order should be coming either late this year or early next year. They’ll end up producing more than one million sets.

“This order means so much more to us than just getting a really great order. It’s our opportunity to serve,” Wilson said. “Working within the federal government was always something of a personal desire. I never thought about manufacturing apparel for them. That was one thing. I am an absolute lover of the Marine Corps. It’s my favorite branch so that just checks a box. And then, this just, made in America, with American factories serving American military, is just, it’s the magic formula for me.”

Plus it comes at a time when AFN was struggling from the setbacks of the pandemic. They had to lay off some members of the team when money was tight. Out of their three stores, they had to close the L.A. office for quite some time. The organization got into mask-making to bounce back when they started losing millions of dollars in contracts with retailers.

But then, something clicked. They watched the movie “War Dogs” and were inspired to get into the government contracting business. From there, they took online courses, worked with a consultant, submitted the bid, and got the call they’d been waiting for.

“I think after the whole process we can take our learnings from this particular opportunity and I think the sky is the limit,” said Ashley Dattellas, Director of Sales and Marketing for Corporate Apparel and Government Contracting at AFN.

And they’re not stopping with Marines. Wilson has her eyes set on all branches of the military.

“I’ve had this whole long career but to now have the opportunity to do this for something I love, for a government I love, for a military I love, and it’s just huge,” Wilson said. “We will be known as the greatest manufacturer of physical training apparel for our military. That’s our goal.”

AFN was among 17 bidders for this current government contract, which will last five years. They’re getting ready to submit other bids soon.

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