The beast isn’t totally dead yet, but American Apparel, Dov Charney’s brainchild and onetime outfitter of hipsters everywhere, is going through a public disintegration that signals the end of a fraught relationship between the hip and the company that tried to capture their money. AA filed for bankruptcy last week. It was never about the clothes, and probably to the company’s detriment.
The fact that AA was helmed by a seriously notorious pervert was never a secret, but the marketing almost celebrated the crassness of an owner who is now being pelted with lawsuits from former employees. Even when business was not awful, the transparent sexism of AA completely overshadowed the fact that they were using American labor to manufacture the clothes. Does diverting money away from international sweatshop exploitation make up for sexual harassment here in the States? What about the persistent rumors of discriminatory hiring practices in the storefronts? How about the fact that even the mannequins in the front of the shops were at one point decorated with comically heavy amounts of pubic hair in service of the CEO’s preferred aesthetic? The sheer amount of ways the sleaze overwhelmed their pro-worker policy doomed the experiment, even maybe along with hiring a unionized, American factory. Yet admitting defeat and saving overhead by shipping all of the manufacturing to the cheapest bidder would have been an indictment of the entire US manufacturing industry, especially the garment industry, and may never have been on the table. Still, Charney being the worst creep in the country other than Terry Richardson (and go figure, hiring Terry Richardson for a few photoshoots) did AA no favors.
Now, after vacillating between kicking out Charney and bringing him back over a period of several months, the tagline of using American workers is getting smaller and smaller at AA. And the affiliated workers are holding pro-Dov demonstrations, beating up an effigy of new CEO Paula Schneider. Stock prices are at an all time low. I guess what I’m trying to say is, once you start seeing AA clothes in your local thrift store, they’ll be worth double their usual hipster points. Be sure to be on the lookout.