Fairfax apparel maker plans to double its workforce
- July 26, 2013
CAS Shiver doesn’t want you to buy one of his company’s T-shirts because it’s organic. “I want you to buy it because you like it,” says Shiver, founder of Sundog Productions in Fairfax. “Once you buy it, once you like it, you come back and say ‘I want more,’ and now I’ve got you, and now you’re paying attention to what you’re buying.” The company’s eco-friendly clothing line, Imagine GreenWear, produces apparel made of 100 percent organic cotton and uses seaweed-based dyes as opposed to plastic or water-based inks.
At a time when more than 97 percent of clothing sold in the U.S. is made overseas, Sundog Productions is expanding not only in the states, but in Fairfax County, a suburb more known for being a technology hub. “The coolest thing is we make something in NoVa,” Shiver says, whose goal is to double Sundog’s workforce from 60 to 120 as need demands.
Sundog Productions recently moved to its third home in Fairfax, a renovated parking garage on Jermantown Road, since outgrowing its home at the old American Medical Laboratory building where it had been since 2005. The new 40,000-square-foot facility uses solar energy, a system that is not only environmentally friendly, Shiver says, but also good for business. “You may spend a little bit of money in implementing the technology, but over time you end up saving money,” he explains.
Because Sundog uses solar-heated water, it is able to save approximately $2,000 a month on its gas bill as well as 3.75 million British thermal units (Btu) per day. That Btu total equals 161,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions that are not released into the atmosphere. Sundog also is working on implementing a geo-thermal energy system.
Sundog Productions has grown since the 1980s, when Shiver started the company in his father’s garage in Annandale. “It was a fun way to make some money, and it turned into a real business,” Shiver says.
Shiver’s business got so big, in fact, that big-box retailers eventually came calling, causing him to open an additional factory in Guatemala from 2003 to 2010. “The only reason to start it was to not let sales that could not be produced here in the USA go to someone else,” Shiver explained in an email. The Guatemalan plant was wiped out by a flood in 2010 (the town suffered fatalities, but no one at his factory was hurt). After that, Shiver decided to focus on smaller, more frequent orders, and he didn’t reopen the plant.
Sundog Productions now creates only American-made products. Customers include Disney, Smithsonian, Harley-Davidson and bands like AC/DC and Pink Floyd.