T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear is to launch its own branded clothing line next year, the Montreal company's president said yesterday.

The range will include T-shirts, sweatshirts, underwear and cotton socks and could help triple the company's annual sales to US$1.5 billion by 2010.

The company also says it will take on new workers in Central America where Gildan has set up new plants, and boost annual capacity from the current 32 million dozen to 100 million dozen T-shirts within five years.

"We haven't had the capacity, so as we bring on those new facilities, our big thrust for retail will be 2006 and 2007 when we get all the capacity coming online," Glenn Chamandy told The Canadian Press.

"What we're going to do is use our low-cost manufacturing to support the retail strategy by offering better product, better packaging, better quality garments at better prices," he added.

Chamandy said the company's Gildan-branded T-shirts will cost less than $10 while a package of six pairs of socks will retail for $6 or $7.

Until now, Gildan's unbranded T-shirts have been distributed by printers and wholesalers.