Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Reports this week are suggesting that American Apparel is yet again teetering on the verge of going bankrupt. The company, which was once the apple of the fashion retails’ eye, is now floundering with exorbitant debts and share values plummeting to a record low of $81 cents. The latest bout of misfortune for American Apparel feels eerily reminiscent of their last financial crisis merely a year ago when British investors, Lions Capital, stepped in to save the company. However, will the company’s inability to turn around their fortunes since Lion Capital’s lifeline be the nail in the coffin for the once flourishing, always controversial fashion retailer? The Boy and the Blog looks at where it all went wrong for American Apparel.

American Apparel’s inability to change and adapt along with its customer base has been noted both by the press as well as the company itself as a huge contributing factor to the downturn in fortunes for the company with Dov Charney declaring that their predominant target market, the hipster, is now dead. However, until recently, the company had continued with the aesthetic that first brought them to prominence including the basic garments as well as the highly sexed spandex and lame bodysuits and leggings. Whilst its desired customer base has moved on in recent years, the company ignoring such a shift in consumers’ taste has seen a decline in the once hipster elite credibility of the brand image. Recently, the company has addressed this problem by shifting the aesthetic of American Apparel away from trashy 80’s to a more grown up, preppy college image however, this last ditch attempt at remaining relevant to their customer base may be too little, too late for the company.

With a figure like Dov Charney at the head of your company, it is never going to be far away from controversy. The ever-increasing list of controversial and shocking revelations about the company’s practices has left American Apparel with a, frankly, appalling track record. A quick search on Gawker reveals many a horror story about the joys of being an American Apparel employee. From a recruitment process based solely on applicants submitting a foot-to-toe photograph to the strict grooming guide that all American Apparel employees must adhere to (as well as the store responsibles who berate staff for not adhering to the manual or for being overweight) to the highly sexualized, amateur porn-esque advertisements featuring, arguably, emancipated nearly naked models which have been the bane of the censors for years (culminating in one of their campaigns finally being banned for allegedly featuring an under age model). The revelations of their awful treatment of their employees as well as the seedy, sleazy public image of the company may finally have caught up with the company with their target customers being turned off by such practices.

What is there to say about Dov Charney? Whilst his tenacity and innovativeness in growing the company from selling t-shirts from his dorm room to a Global, publicly traded company has to be admired, the ever increasing number of rumours and employee testimonials about him really does not paint him as a good, morally upstanding kind of guy. Maybe it is just me but Charney admitting that he refers to women and, in particular, models in his advertisements as ‘sluts’ really doesn’t make me want to give my hard earned cash to him and his company.

Finally, from reading reactions to the latest news about American Apparel it would appear that a lot of potential American Apparel consumers are just not willing to pay £24 for a basic t-shirt. Now that the buzz and hype surrounding the company has died down and it has, arguably, lost a good amount of the hipster elite status it once had, it may solely come down to the fact that people have nothing particularly desirable to buy into to justify the price of their garments.

Let’s open this up to everyone. What do you guys reckon has caused American Apparel to lose its appeal and to find itself in dire straits again? What do you think about their ethics? Do you still shop in American Apparel?


Cam xx