Emma Silvers, an editorial fellow at Salon, has finally seen the light on popular hipster store American Apparel.
Now the largest clothing manufacturer in the U.S., American Apparel opened in 2003 in Los Angeles after a short stint as a wholesale T-shirt supplier. Within two years, it had 53 retails stores in five countries. Its marketing was effective, targeting teenagers and young adults who wanted to be non-conformists and conscious consumers. The brand sold itself on political stances like paying a fair wage, no outsourcing/”sweatshop-free,” and being liberal on social issues. It was the perfect store for the socially conscious progressive.
Many bought into the brand. But now, the darker side of the company is catching up to it and former fans like Silvers are speaking out:
I nodded approvingly when I noticed T-shirts broadcasting progressive views on immigration policy and gay rights. But for the past few years, every time I’ve forked over my hard-earned money for, say, a $30 skirt made from a single yard of material, I experienced a gnawing feeling of regret — and it’s not just because I’m broke. You see, up until recently, I had been avoiding a deeper truth about the company: From its advertisements to its hiring policies to its CEO, everything about American Apparel is sexist, seedy and seriously offensive.
Over the past five years, the founder and CEO, Dov Charney, has been sued by employees for sexual harassment on at least five occassions. The company’s hiring practices have also come under fire, most recently because of leaked documents which Silvers says “paint a sordid picture of a company whose entire corporate culture is dominated by misogynistic, overgrown-indie-frat boy attitudes.”
I’m not the least bit surprised. One look at American Apparel’s ads will tell you there’s something wrong somewhere. Silvers describes them perfectly:
[E]maciated, ethnically ambiguous, suspiciously pre-pubescent girls who look like they were shipped here to be sex slaves, and just crawled out of their crates into headbands and fishnet leotards.
Yes, that’s it exactly. Let’s hope this sleazy company goes under.