Arbor Update

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American Apparel's "progressive" claims under fire

24. July 2005 • Murph
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With Sam’s and The Planet having demonstrated a market, “sweatshop free” manufacturer American Apparel opened their own store in Ann Arbor last week just in time for Art Fair. One reader objects, sending a selection of links challenging AA’s reputation.

Not only has the company been accused of union busting – apparently considering themselves too worker-friendly to “need” a union, a la Whole Foods – but the company has faced several sexual harassment lawsuits recently, based on some interesting behavior by founder and CEO Dov Charney. (Charney writes off the lawsuits as “exploitative” attempts by disgruntled employees to capitalize on his “openness” about sex.)

From Business Week, 27 June 2005, Living on the Edge at American Apparel:

In his marketing, Charney has been adept at weaving his libertarian sexual attitude with his progressive labor practices. But it’s another matter to make that attitude a bedrock principle of the workplace. In their sexual harassment suits, two of the women accuse Charney of exposing himself to them. One claims he invited her to masturbate with him and that he ran business meetings at his Los Angeles home wearing close to nothing. Another says he asked her to hire young women with whom he could have sex, Asians preferred. All describe him using foul language in their presence, much of it demeaning to women. Says Keith A. Fink, an attorney for one of the women suing: “The work environment there makes Animal House look like choir practice.”

Also see,
> New York Times, 10 July 2005, His Way Meets a Highway Called Court
> Washington Square News (NYU), 27 January 2005, American Apparel not progressive, just perverse

  1. Of course, American Apparel is probably still better than every other t-shirt manufacturer out there.

    Note that, if Sam’s carries any given American Apparel item, it’s 20-25% cheaper than at the AA store. With less than a three block detour, we can support local business, buy into AA as little as possible, and save money.
       —Murph    Jul. 24 '05 - 08:25PM    #
  2. I actually have some AA items sitting in my Amazon cart, just lurking. I looked today and they’re all about 50% less than the prices in their online store. I haven’t been to the bricks-and-mortar yet—will have to stop in when I’m back to mock their price tags.
       —Matt    Jul. 25 '05 - 01:56AM    #
  3. Understand that, all clothing and fashion companies with the same target market are using the same visual content to promote their specific product. We live in a sexed up society. The difference that AMERICAN APPAREL does is its business ethics. So why is it all right for the big guy sweatshops companies to use SEX to sell and not the other. Why can’t american apparel get in on the money to made through Sexually Suggestive Advertisement Also ??
       —Arthur    Aug. 7 '05 - 05:09AM    #
  4. unless i missed something in the article you didn’t, arthur, the problem isn’t with sexually suggestive advertisements, but with the sexually suggestive work environment. . . .
       —[libcat]    Aug. 8 '05 - 04:31AM    #
  5. Uh, yeah,
    When you’re in the sales business, and everywhere is sex used to sell, then isn’t a condition of your employment that the environment be sexually suggestive.
    Would you ever accept a soldier suing the gov’t for getting wounded?
       —Julio    Aug. 13 '05 - 01:23AM    #
  6. Yes, if his or her commanding officer did the shooting.
       —Dale    Aug. 13 '05 - 02:43AM    #