Although the fall of American Apparel has been ongoing for years, the company has now been (officially) bought by Gildan Activewear.
Many will remember AA as it has been portrayed in the media for the last while, with lawsuits and bankruptcy looming in the air. However, for a few, we will forever reminisce about the good old days when American Apparel was actually the coolest thing ever.
For those of us, it is the end of an era.
Some may call me biased as I was employed by American Apparel for a great three years, starting in 2007 when the company was booming. I vividly recall how excited I was when I got the job. AA was all the rage and the people who worked there had this nonchalant yet effervescent attitude that was coveted by many. You wanted to work at this retail store and not only because it came with an awesome employee discount (50 per cent off merchandise), but it was legitimately the hottest fashion of the moment; proven by Kanye West lyrics, “I need more drinks and less lights, And that American Apparel girl in just tights”.
It wasn’t always fun and games.
My time at American Apparel gave me an incredible start to a long (and still growing) fashion career. The job was not a joke. The company had strict merchandising policies in order to maintain their image; to this day I can fold a perfect pile of t-shirts in record time. The store had to be on point at all times, with the head office in Montreal, you never knew who was going to potentially walk in.
Weekly conference calls were held to discuss issues and aid in sales growth, led by Mr. Dov Charney himself. The man may have been a little headstrong, but let me tell you, he was dedicated and smart. In addition, once a week, the entire staff had to stay for three-plus hours after store closure to complete what we called a perfect fill; in other words, an inventory of all store stock, on the floor and in the back stock room. At the time I didn’t quite understand the importance of this task, however I now realize by having a perfectly filled store you cannot lose a sale and inventory tracking is a strategy for expense control and a way to measure success.
Most retail stores do this once a year, we did it once a week. If that isn’t a devoted company and staff, I’m not sure what is.
Teaching strong work ethics was merely a minor positive of the company. American Apparel was always a huge advocate for some great cultural movements. By manufacturing their clothing in LA, while paying fair wages to their factory workers, they continuously had a committed customer who took pride and believed greatly in the sweatshop free process. The company also depended on environmentally friendly practices; by using excess fabric to produce smaller items like hair accessories and undergarments there was much less waste happening.
American Apparel did not discriminate. They participated in immigration protests, supported the gay community and even launched a worldwide advertising campaign, Legalize LA, which also turned into Legalize Gay after the passing of Prop 8 in California during November 2008. The ads might have been a little scandalous (to some) but the people in them were real, honest and had minimal (or no) airbrushing. The branding and advertising was often scrutinized and criticized, yet it will go down in history and is one we will probably never forget.
When the days of American Apparel were good, they were really good.
The fashion was effortless; the clothes were simple yet of quality. I still have staple pieces in my wardrobe, almost ten years later. What also remain in my life are the friendships I made; so many of the American Apparel employees were such great people and the relationships we held was like a family. I have often said that my time at AA was some of the best years. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had and proud that a passionate company, who had such an impact on the world, was founded by a fellow Montrealer.
To Dov Charney, I am anxiously awaiting the (public) launch of That’s Los Angeles.