Arbor Update

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American Apparel in Ann Arbor: fleshy treat or urban blight??

21. November 2005 • David Boyle
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I was walking in front of the “American Apparel” clothing store on Liberty tonight and saw that they now have some TV’s in the window, playing mostly G-rated fare but also showing some of their ads, including one with an immense expanse of woman’s thigh etc., as per their “provocative” and scanty-clad ads which plaster the inside of their store. Is this all a good thing, for women or anyone else? There are larger problems in the world, but still. With the Britney Spears-Kevin Federline(-Shar Jackson) mess, and the white phosphorus bombing of Fallujah scandal, it almost seems like the culture is becoming a whorehouse domestically and a slaughterhouse internationally. Hm. Bad combo of ‘houses. Or not. Have some cawfee. Tawk. If you like. Ann Arbor awaits your attitude.

  1. Someone forgot to edit.

    There should be new paragraphs starting after ”...anyone else” and ”...of ‘houses”. Sorry bout dat.
       —David Boyle    Nov. 21 '05 - 09:07PM    #
  2. More fleshy treats, please. Is it me or is AU getting a little squeamish these days?
       —Brandon    Nov. 21 '05 - 09:20PM    #
  3. Just me (heh). (?)

    I don’t have time to Google it, but the Am Apparel founder is being accused of massive sexual harassment of employees, I recall…
       —David Boyle    Nov. 21 '05 - 10:14PM    #
  4. David—if you made the front page posts a little more newsy and less chatty, it would be an improvement. Say whatever in the comments, but keep the text before the jump crisp. Just a suggestion.
       —Dale    Nov. 21 '05 - 11:02PM    #
  5. (Personally, I like the non-stuffy editorial voice…)

    American Apparel has had its harassment issues in the past; see my post from when the store here opened for more details.
       —Murph.    Nov. 21 '05 - 11:24PM    #
  6. Thx Dale! Shall consider.

    —Murph! Maybe I was subconsciously channeling your old diary all along! Should have attributed etc., had I remembered. Sorry!
       —David Boyle    Nov. 21 '05 - 11:43PM    #
  7. Funny, I have only ever noticed their amazingly ugly outfits in the window. I guess scantily-clad women just don’t attract my attention. Unfortunately, despite their problems, I think American Apparel is probably still far better than most clothing companies in treatment of their workers.
       —Juliew    Nov. 22 '05 - 07:20PM    #
  8. Well, regardless of popular opinion, I’ve spent way, way too much in that store.
       —eston    Nov. 23 '05 - 01:08AM    #
  9. “probably still far better”

    Yeah, that’s the output my moral calculus gave too. Which is why I do buy AmApp stuff, but buy it at Sam’s. (Though I think Sam’s prices on AmApp have gone up since the dedicated store with higher prices went in…)
       —Murph    Nov. 23 '05 - 10:44AM    #
  10. I’m with Dale.
       —js    Nov. 23 '05 - 10:10PM    #
  11. Ah crispy nuggets.

    Thank you Colonel Sanders. :D
       —David Boyle    Nov. 23 '05 - 10:53PM    #
  12. american apparel is a far cry from some of the better alternative options like just garments and no sweat. the owner said (paraphrased, it was way back) when asked why his workers dont have a union, “my workers dont need a union, i know what they need”. great.

    mike s
       —mike s    Nov. 25 '05 - 03:14AM    #
  13. What American Apparel doesn’t publicize much is how well it treats the workers who actually make the clothes. According to AA’s website, their employees are paid more generously than those working for other companies, have good job security, company-subsidized health insurance, are offered English language classes, and get massages on the job, among other things.
       —Anneka G.    Nov. 25 '05 - 12:12PM    #
  14. How is putting that information on its web site not publicizing it?
       —Dale    Nov. 25 '05 - 12:37PM    #
  15. I manage The Planet which carries American Apparel, and since we’re outspoken about boycotting sweatshop labor this issue weighs heavily on us.

    On one hand the CEO Dov Charney is a sexist pig and there are several accusations of sexual harassment at the AA headquarters (which is also the factory). That, coupled with his refusal to allow the employees to unionize have led some activists to regard American Apparel as “sweatshop labor.”

    I can certainly sympathize with that position, but on the other hand, American Apparel is for more ethical than the average corporate brand. When we went looking for apparel vendors, we found that most brands offered nothing whatsoever to indicate that their Third World factories were not sweatshops. Which suggests that they are sweatshops.

    American Apparel might not have ideal working conditions, but they are far better than the brands that pay children 10 cents an hour for sixteen-hour days.

    We have three ways of verifying whether a company is operating a sweatshop:

    -If it’s made in the U.S.A., it’s good enough (even minimum wage in the U.S.A. is still better than Third-World conditions)

    -If it’s made by a unionized company, it’s OK.

    -If it’s made by a company approved by the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) it’s OK. The WRC is reliable, unlike the Fair Labor Association which is a charade.

    I recall having a potential T-shirt vendor on the phone, and when I asked if his tees met these qualifications, and he gave a sigh and explained that it’s impossible to compete paying the extra cost of workers’ rights. This seems to be the prevailing attitude in the apparel industry.

    So, while American Apparel is far from ideal, it’s also far from the worst conditions. Plus it’s an excellent product, and very popular. Many of our printed tees come from companies that use their shirts. They’re wholesale rates are so good we can sell their stuff at half the price they do at their store and still make good profit.

    There are better companies like No Sweat and Carhartt (which we also carry—both are 100% union-made), but neither one fills American Apparel’s market niche.

    So, I’m pretty ambivalent to their corporate policies, but they’ve at least passed the bar for being eligible for sale at our store.
       —Adam de Angeli    Nov. 26 '05 - 02:52PM    #
  16. “How is putting that information on its web site not publicizing it?”

    It is publicizing it, but I said it wasn’t publicized much. By that I meant that the store here doesn’t make it readily known, which is too bad for them because it’s a good selling point.
       —Anneka G.    Nov. 29 '05 - 10:59PM    #