American Apparel: one of the most popular clothing stores across the country, and one of the greatest influence on how we dress, second only to Aritzia. Although this expansive chain promises sustainable, sweat-shop free clothing, it is riddled with scandal.
American Apparel ads are everywhere: blown-up on billboards, posted on the internet, and bearing down from the walls of Lawrence Station. Most of the sad, skinny models in these ads were scooted off the street by American Apparel founder Dov Charney and his colleagues, others are professional actresses and porn stars. The ads are provocative, even offensive, but their honesty has nonetheless been praised around the world. American Apparel is beloved across age barriers, though, and these sexual ads promote sexiness to children and young teens, and are a large part of the documented sexualisation of prepubescent girls.
American Apparel employees are chosen using a very flawed system. Employees used to be scooted in store: employees would take pictures of people that had a “unique style” (Translation: skinny, attractive girls) which they would submit to corporate. Lately, this process has changed a bit, it is now possible to apply online, but you still have to submit a photo. Although they say that they are looking for employees of all shapes and sizes, a quick look around an American Apparel will disprove this. The employees are very thin, disproportionately so, when compared with the general population. Of course, this may be because American Apparel clothing is made for thin people; the skin-tight skirts, body suits, and high-waisted pants that the company is infamous for only look good on the most skeletal. The company is also known for distorted sizing. Sizes are often larger than usual, and this definitely does not improve self esteem.
There is also a great deal of controversy surrounding the founder of the company, Canadian Dov Charney. He was the subject of several sexual harassment suits, and he was accused by Claudine Ko, a reporter from Jane magazine, of using derogatory terms towards his female employees, and masturbating in front of her during an interview. The work environment at American Apparel is said to be atrocious, especially for women.
The company declared bankruptcy last year, due to corrupt corporate policy.
Even with all of these problems, American Apparel does create a small positive impact around the world. The company campaigns for the legalization of gay marriage in California, immigration reform in the US, and labour reform around the world. The clothes are produced in factories where employees are paid $12 an hour, unlike clothes in most factories, which are produced in sweatshops. The company also oozes Canadian culture: it is one of the few global corporations that is Canadian owned.
The next time you need to source t-shirts for your club, or you just want a new body suit for Halloween, think twice about where you are going to buy them. Because although sweat-shop free sounds fantastic, you have to look past the advertising campaigns, that thin veil, to see the true, sexist nature of the company.