Everyone’s favorite bodysuit supplier is back online. American Apparel is officially up and running again after filing for bankruptcy in 2015. Following the purchase of the company, one of the signature qualities we’ve grown to love, the “Made in USA, Sweatshop Free” logo, is gone.
Canadian born Dov Charney was always interested in the garment industry, and he definitely had a knack for it. As a kid, Charney was all about business, so he imported Hanes and Fruit of the Loom shirts for his friends and classmates.
After high school, Charney enrolled in college, but only for a brief moment. In 1990, with a loan from his father, he moved to South Carolina to pursue his dream of starting his own company.
While there, Charney began manufacturing shirts. He got involved in every aspect from design to marketing. Although he was dedicated to his work, he struggled. In 1997, Charney moved his business to Los Angeles, hoping the change of scene would turn things around. Thankfully, the move worked. After three years on the West Coast, Charney made a name for himself in the world of wholesale clothing—American Apparel was on the map.
By the early 2000s, the success of American Apparel skyrocketed. New stores opened, profits rolled in, and the brand’s style shook up the fashion world. The company was known for bright colors, revealing bodysuits, and a fresh use of sequins. At its peak, over 6,000 different products were available for purchase. Throughout the duration of American Apparel’s life space, Charney was committed to producing all his clothing in America.
Despite a promising future, trouble soon plagued the brand and led to its unfortunate downfall. Charney was somewhat known for his inappropriate work behavior, and it eventually caught up with him.
The first harassment lawsuit filed against Charney by former employees was in 2005. In 2008, Woody Allen also filed a lawsuit against Charney for using Allen’s image on a billboard without his consent. While most of the lawsuits brought to court were dismissed, American Apparel settled with Allen’s legal team for $5 million in 2009.
Less than a year after the settlement, American Apparel laid off 1,800 factory workers, saw business drop, had more lawsuit allegations filed, and found themselves with an $86 million loss. Talk about a rough year.
Getting the Boot
By 2014, the company’s board had enough of Charney’s bad behavior and decided to oust him from his CEO position. Board members wanted a change of pace, so they brought in fashion executive Paula Schneider. Unfortunately, it was too late, and American Apparel had to file for bankruptcy in 2015.
All 110 stores closed, and many customers mourned the end of the company. However, only a few months after the bankruptcy announcement, Gildan Activewear bought out American Apparel for $88 million.
Since the purchase, American Apparel’s online store has been reopened, but don’t expect it to look the same as before. Gildan shared that they want to go back to the basics, so they’re only selling about 37 items.
Additionally, Gildan isn’t planning on keeping production in the United States. The Canadian company already uses factories in Honduras, but it will so kindly offer a “made in America” option—for an extra $10 per item. Not to mention that Gildan has a not-so-great track record when it comes to worker’s rights and factory conditions.
In 2015, Gildan was said to have the worst factory conditions in Honduras. They were also accused of not paying living wages to their workers and firing employees for attempted union organization. It seems like a slap in the face for a company with this past to purchase and change the model of a business that prided itself on manufacturing clothing in an ethical manner. Maybe customers will stay true to the American Apparel way and pay more for the American-made items—we’ll just have to wait and see.