The Rebirth of American Apparel

Photo: American Apparel window display © Urban Tofu, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

American Apparel, the brand as famous for its scandals as it is for its clothes, will return this month with exclusive distribution through the Internet.

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The bang-to-bust retailer, which once did more than $600 million in sales, went spiraling out of control after as series of controversies that ended in filing for bankruptcy (for a second time in 2016) and the firing of founder Dov Charney in 2014, and a restraining order issued the following year.

©William Murphy, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

©William Murphy, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After shuttering its retail operations in 2016, the company went on the market and was scooped up by Canadian manufacturer Gildan Activewear Inc. for $88 million earlier this year.

According to Business of Fashion, Gildan’s success lies in its global production chain, which allows them to produce apparel overseas in order to compete with companies including Hanesbrands Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Fruit of the Loom. The company, which employs 42,000 people worldwide, owns and operates production facilities in Honduras and the Caribbean.

© James C. Santiago, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

© James C. Santiago, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Founded in 1989, American Apparel built its reputation in being produced in downtown Los Angeles and prided itself on being “Made in the USA”—taking the world by storm with its classic sportwear, retro styles, and overtly sexual advertising that prided itself on being in your face.

The company used its platform to launch Legalize Gay and Pride campaigns, as well as create environmentally sustainable practices through vertical integration, developing a manufacturing system around the idea of “Creative Reuse,” which converted excess fabric from the production of one garment into the construction of accessories such as bathing suit tops, headbands, and belts—saving approximately 30,000 pounds of cotton per week.

Despite many sound practices, American Apparel became a magnet for lawsuits, including one from Woody Allen, who objected to unauthorized use of his image in a 2007 billboard campaign. There were also seven public sexual harassment lawsuits against Charney, all of which were thrown out of court, but didn’t help to polish the company’s tarnished reputation.

Gilden chief executive Glenn Chamandy told Business of Fashion, “At the end of the day we will do very well with this brand. This will hopefully be one of the best acquisitions the company has ever made, in terms of return on investment, so we’re very excited about it.”

According to the story, Chamandy, did not indicate whether the new American Apparel website would allow customers to choose between Latin American production or pay a premium for products manufactured in the United States—so if you’re looking to buy American, check out Los Angeles Apparel, Dov Charney’s new company that is once again, produced exclusively in the City of Angels.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.