Thursday, January 17th, 2019

The Hidden Costs of American Apparel

Published on January 21, 2013 by   ·   6 Comments Pin It

If you’re like many folks under forty, there’s a good chance that you own at least one item from popular retailer American Apparel. Despite the less-than-cheap cost of an American Apparel solid, unisex hoodie, these zip-ups seem to be the hallmark of today’s hippest. Whether you’ve splurged on a deep-V from American Apparel or not, you probably don’t know just what goes into making this trendy-yet-comfy garb. Today’s “Hidden Cost” video highlights the inner costs and values of American Apparel as a manufacturing and retailing titan. Known mostly for scantily clad models, hip clothing, and some eyebrow-raising prices, the truth is that there’s much more to American Apparel that meets the eye.

Check out the following video and get an inside look at employee health, environmental impacts, and economic value of this ultra-hip clothing company—some of the true costs might just surprise you.

Video Transcript:Health: B-
Locally: (A) American Apparel offers a full workout line of clothing, inspiring the fashion-conscience to get fit. Also, American Apparel clothing pieces are typically made from a majority of cotton – a breathable, hypoallergenic, insulating material which is can be worn for comfort year around.
Globally: (C-) American Apparel employees are offered health care, paid time off, and reasonable wages – an impressive package for seamstresses. Even overseas employees in China make the US federal minimum wage. However, the company is plagued with rumors and lawsuits about discrimination based on appearance and sexual harassment.

Environment: B+

Locally: (B) American Apparel offers a range of organic-made products, including t-shirts, which are made without material not grown with harmful fertilizers. However, organic-clothing isn’t exclusively sold at American Apparel, so eco-conscience shoppers must choose carefully.

Globally: (A-) By using the maximum amount of each cut of material, American Apparel saves one million pounds of cotton per year and any unused material is recycled. The also offers a bike lending program for employees to save on CO2 emissions and they installed a solar system on their manufacturing plant in LA which powers 30% of operations.

Economic: C+

Locally: (B) For relatively durable clothing, American Apparel keeps it’s prices reasonable compared to other logo-painted clothing. T-shirts start around $15 and hoodies at $45. As long as one doesn’t go too crazy – shopping at American Apparel won’t break the bank.

Globally: (C) American Apparel employs over 10,000 people in manufacturing, corporate and over 250 retail stores in 20 different countries. After experiencing years of triple digit percentile growth for years, American Apparel struggled along with the rest of the economy during the downturn. In 2011, the company experienced $533 million in revenue loss and hinted at bankruptcy until investors managed to come up with $15 million.

Final Grade: B-

Misogynist ad alert!

GGA Final Word:

When there are so many independent retailers to support, why support one that has a known misogynist at the helm? Not to mention, we find the quality to be sub-par and the prices totally inflated.  While they should be given props for making their products in the USA, hiring fringe/ alternative kids who may otherwise not get jobs in their towns, and producing many organic options – there are companies that impress us more.

The blog AwakenedAesthetic says; “Like American Apparel, Alternative Apparel (often just called Alternative) has high social responsibility standards, a Certified Organic line (Alternative Earth) and a great reputation when it comes to its labor standards and environmental protection.  That reputation extends to include strict non-discrimination standards and a support for charities all over the world.  They have the same basics as American Apparel – without the ads featuring freshly-waxed crotches. ”

We’ve worn tons of Alternative Apparel and find the quality to be a billion times better (and last much longer) than American Apparel.

What’s your opinion on AA?

Ad images via American Apparel

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Readers Comments (6)

  1. jesse.anne.o says:

    I do still buy there from time to time, although I try to limit new merchandise these days since any new apparel has a significant environmental impact. I have some AA pieces that are shoddily made and others that have lasted upwards of 50 wears.

    When I did look into Alternative Apparel for my shopping guide, it was nearly impossible to find their labor standards highlighted and even when I did find them they were at the bottom of their social responsibility page and basically said non-US, but with oversight. { }

    I wrote a post about why I still buy AA from time to time here –

    Basically, I buy them because I think they’re middle ground but I don’t think they’re great – it’s a compromise in what values I hold closest, for sure. In Overdressed, I think the quote from one of the AA seamstresses was that it was a job slightly better than the rest of the LA seamstress jobs.

  2. ruby says:

    Nauseating ads and prices. I’m not a fan, however, I have five pieces purchased in 2008 (when my awareness was not what it is today) that have held-up well.

    I wouldn’t shop there again.

  3. Thessaly says:

    When Alternative Apparel adds more clothing that doesn’t like it was designed for yoga teachers and hippies then I’d gladly switch to shopping there. But if I want actual trousers or colored denim my options are along the lines of AA, JCrew, or Old Navy. Of those, AA clearly has better labor standards.

  4. QV says:

    Thanks for the tip, we will definitely check out Alternative Apparel for some new Queen V shirts! Great article ladies…

  5. Staci says:

    More exploitation of the female human animal, by a man, for profit. This is why I won’t shop there.

  6. Olivia says:

    Thessaly are you KIDDING!? Yoga teachers and hippies? Get a grip! So you are saying that even though the advertising basically objectifies women as whores that you will still buy from them because an ethical brand is too ‘hippy’ for you? They have plain v neck tops and basic items :s I’m sure they are suitable for yoga too but seriously, how ignorant.

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