Ask anyone you know, and they have a story about American Apparel. Almost always, the story starts with something they bought there, and where that piece took them…
The neon spandex from your ’02 Halloween 80s Glam Rock costume that you had to walk-of-shame in the next day through lower Manhattan (and not giving a F*(@)#$! — for the record, not me, but won’t name names here).
Or it’s the short white jumper and sleeveless hoodie combo you wore to a rave in Bushwick, that came home coated in a million different hues of black-light dye, topped off with a layer of glitter (maybe me).
Maybe it’s that bodysuit that fit perfectly with your casual (butt tight) jeans you always wore on a second date, when you’re deliberately trying to not try too hard… but not really at all (every girl I knew in my 20s).
Or maybe, it’s just the perfectly cut v-neck t-shirt you have in 6 different colors, that gets you through the summer (my fiancé Kris, an American Apparel shopper since the late 90’s, and I LOVE him in those t-shirts)…
Now, with the iconic brand’s closing, it’s time to say goodbye to an end of an era — and close the book on a piece of American fashion history… but at the same time, think about what this means for the future of fashion and retail.
What Dov Charney created in the late 1980s was no small deal (and let’s put the sleaze factor aside for a moment). Not only did he create a behemoth of a brand that was wildly successful for decades, but he also created a fashion movement. American Apparel was the original brand for the perfect basics from literally every category, and in every color imaginable… but it was never boring. Their basics were just the beginning. Their (at times) raunchy and (always) sexy ad campaigns made hipsters mainstream — and uncomfortably seductive as a new “real”, less skinny idea of the model emerged. But back to the sleaze factor for a second…The sexual harassment allegations that plagued the founder around the time of his dismissal can’t be ignored and will always be a negative (and frankly unacceptable) stain on how the brand will be remembered.
Then, there was the brand messaging. You could say they were among the first to really embrace the transparency in fashion movement we’re so deep into now. Charney made sure American Apparel’s “Made in L.A.” message was at the center of everything they did – from press stories (good or bad), to billboards on the Sunset Strip. Cue, the locally based fashion movement… now, everyone could know where their neon crop top was actually coming from! The brand that billed itself as an “industrial revolution” also took on activist causes with their “legalize LA” campaign in support of immigration reform and the “legalize gay” campaign in support of marriage equality.
Fast forward to 2017, and we’re entering a new era of consumerism… less trend driven, more focused on pieces you can build as essentials, and wear for years. We’re focused on the story behind the products and how they are made and undeniably, this is a consumer focus that American Apparel had a hand in starting.
Major iconic stores that have defined the 90s and 2000s are now on their way out. American Apparel is one of those victims of where shopping is headed. What would the brand have looked like in the future of fashion and retail…I guess we’ll never know.
But let’s give American Apparel a moment of silence out of respect. And take a minute to think about your own fashion story. I, for one, will never let Kris throw out his collection of v-necks… and I’ll always have a soft spot for my white jumper and hoodie hanging in the back of my closet (glitter and all).