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Posted in good design, the world around us, things we like by hemmant jha on April 16, 2009

American Apparel.

Located in Downtown LA, Sweatshop Free, with Vertically Integrated Manufacturing, campaigning to Legalize LA – American Apparel gets noticed. Which is exactly what Dov Charney set out to do with the first series of AA advertising featuring women in various states of undress, shot mostly by him. The imagery was raw, the picture quality overblown and gritty – cheap thrills, perfectly in step with the AA product philosophy.

While an entire blog, not just a post, could be devoted just to the extent and nature of Dov’s participation in that process, his role in the creation of American Apparel is clear and incontestable, and can be summed up in a few words. We believe that the early success of any company is driven by its founder. Not an appointed governor, but the person with the original idea, the vision, the passion and the ability to do whatever it takes to create a successful venture. And to make this enterprise successful without resorting to the usual suspects – outsourcing, lowering quality, extravagant pricing, outrageous claims, is even more noteworthy. The American Apparel message is clear – well designed, sometimes funky, affordable clothing made locally in a conscientious way : what could be better?

Much has been written elsewhere about the company, the colorful personality of its founder, the products [1, 2]. The rest of this post is devoted to showcasing AA imagery, as seen on the building, within its factory store in LA, and its advertising [AA collection of models / campaign here – unfortunately, much of this looks a bit polished, unlike the earliest efforts].

American Apparel represents just the kind of effort we support, and is the first in our series of profiles on companies small and large – focussed, enthusiastic about what they do, innovative.  

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4 Responses

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  1. joshua wentz said, on April 17, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I was talking to an AA employee the other day, and I learned that they are under draconian surveillance at all times. Apparently they are constantly watched, with regional managers calling in from their spy perches to tell employees to do this or that (or stop doing this or that). I guess they aren’t looking for good morale in their staff.

    I found the whole thing a little shocking and quite a bit unsettling. It negates their aesthetic of a bunch of too-cool hipsters disinterestedly ringing up your multi-colored purchase. The thought of being so untrusted that a manager has to spy around the clock is sad indeed, especially from a company whose outgoing appearance is edgy and free-spirited.

  2. 69 « thinkmore said, on April 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    […] that good efforts should be encouraged. We’ve featured other noteworthy efforts here : A , B , C , […]

  3. hemmant jha said, on April 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Joshua, you’re right, of course, that intimidation of employees is very problematic, and far from the image they portray.

    It seems that the AA policy of treating their workers right might not extend to their stores, which is unfortunate. There’s no denying the fair wages paid to workers and the heavily subsidized healthcare [unless that’s out as well, and has been skillfully covered up by good ol’ corporate PR]. It is possible, however, that what we’re witnessing is the new AA, under new ownership. American Apparel is no longer under the ownership of the founder [http://investors.americanapparel.net/secfiling.cfm?filingID=315066-09-1437], although Dov is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer and President….and had a reserved parking space out front last time I looked.

  4. Joshua Wentz said, on April 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    “It is possible, however, that what we’re witnessing is the new AA, under new ownership.”

    This wouldn’t surprise me. Having worked both with and for companies that have made that (in my opinion) ill-advised transition from small, essential, interesting company to lumbering corporate behemoth, and the sales staff is often the first to get punished. It is my wish that more companies would treat “clerk” as a job with both financial and intellectual benefits, and maybe even a bit of upward mobility.

    You would think that companies where the owners started their own careers in the mail rooms of large companies would realize the importance of a positive, well-stroked workforce.


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