When you think of American Apparel, you likely think of the brand's many controversies: its many, many sexually-charged and subsequently banned ad campaigns, the "real people" (aka professional models) that it claims to use in those ad campaigns, that "Period Power" t-shirt, the "culturally insensitive" Voodoo window display, and the company's notoriously creepy founder, Dov Charney. However, what you may not think of is quality clothing and ethical (for the most part) working standards. I admit: I am certainly guilty of letting American Apparel's not-so-appealing reputation cloud my judgement of the brand, but here's why the brand deserves a second chance (or a 22nd chance).
• The company manufactures all of its goods in the U.S. - in Los Angeles to be exact and to date, there haven't been many horror stories about LA-based sweatshops that continue to plague brands like Forever 21. The company makes an important point: "It comes down to this: not blindly outsourcing." You've probably become accustomed to the oh-so-common practice of retailers blaming their suppliers for copied designs or for poor working conditions, after the fact. This is the result of retailers not doing their homework and blindly outsourcing.
• They employ people. American Apparel employs over 7,500 people in Los Angeles, with an additional 5,000 working at their stores worldwide. Every year American Apparel contributes roughly $25 million dollars in federal and state payroll taxes and with over 180 retail stores in the US, we contribute millions more in rent in cities all over the country.
• They pay their employees fairly and do not subject them to unsafe working conditions. According to the company's website, a garment worker in Bangladesh earns an average of $600 a year. An experienced American Apparel garment worker can earn $40,000+ and receive beneﬁts, such as comprehensive health care.
• They are environmentally friendly. According to a statement from the company: "By concentrating our entire operation within a few square miles, American Apparel has a smaller carbon footprint than our competitors. We recycle almost all our manufacturing waste and as of 2012 we are virtually landﬁll-free. Our solar panels offset as much as 20% of our electrical usage, and we ship the majority of our goods to our worldwide stores via excess space on passenger ﬂights and busses, minimizing our environmental impact."
• Their clothing and accessories are reasonably priced.
• They do not base their entire business on blatantly copying emerging designers.
So, while Charney is certainly not the most likable character is fashion, why not look past his personal reputation and consider the manner in which the clothes are made as the relevant and deciding factor? We all know that Karl is almost certifiably insane and yet, no one would refuse a shopping trip to Chanel. Maybe we should be treating this situation in a similar way. Thoughts?