Is the fake revolution almost over?

It seems like American Apparel’s own finances may very well accomplish what several feminists, activists and even Woody Allen couldn’t. The controversial Los Angeles-based clothing company may have to close its doors within a year.

The publicly-traded company founded by Montrealer Dov Charney announced that they expect a $5-$7 million loss in their second quarter and continued losses in their third quarter. They may not be able to pay back their creditors and be forced to close their roughly 260 stores in 19 countries.

Lose the glasses, they make you look like a hipster: American Apparel CEO Dov Charney

Amidst all this talk of looming bankruptcy, CEO Charney took the rather interesting step of lashing out at his company’s base. He told BusinessWeek that the company was moving away from the hipster aesthetic, claiming “nobody wants to be a hipster.” Now, apparently, AA is going for the preppy aesthetic.

This isn’t surprising given the company’s history. AA first gained popularity by touting the fact that they don’t use sweatshop labour in the production of their clothing. While you can argue that this should be a given instead of a sellpoint, the sweatshop-heavy state of the garment industry meant that AA started off with socially progressive street cred for their “alternative” approach.

The hands-on approach: CEO Charney and model in American Apparel ad

It wasn’t going to last. With questions over tactics they used to prevent a union from forming in their California factory, sexual harassment allegations against Charney, their softcore porn approach to marketing (not to mention Charney’s reported hands-on involvement in selecting the models) and their in-store hiring practises, their activist credibility soon started to wane.

They tried to preserve it as much as they could. They infiltrated a group of theatre activists who tried to do a scene humorously challenging their ethical track record (full disclosure: the author of this post was one of those activists) and tried to take journalists to task for daring to question the moral high ground the company claimed to occupy.

It was all for not and AA soon shifted away from their socially responsible image, revealing it to be nothing more than a marketing tactic and started focusing on being a hipster clothing company. Now, with the spectre of bankruptcy looming, it seems that they are ready to abandon that, too and become just another typical clothing company.

Will the move work or will American Apparel merely fade into oblivion? Only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that the fake revolution is almost over.

One comment

  • I’ve always been skeptical of AA. I fully support and congratulate their “fairly manufactured” clothes, but with a student’s budget, never got around to spending $20 on a plain, blue tank-top. It’s just too bad that companies that put in an effort for equability flounder because they only take those values where the money will come in. I wonder if they’d be doing any better if their morals were directed inwards?

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