American Apparel announced a deal with Amazon and a shift in retail strategy to keep retail stores closed in North America amid a U.S. presidential race focusing on the loss of jobs to automation and online retail giants.
Gildan Activewear bought the recently bankrupt brand in 2016 for $88 million and rumored to reopen a retail store in Melrose Boulevard, Los Angeles, where the brand started its humble beginning.
“We came to the conclusion that the ‘American’ in American Apparel is not necessarily a place. Customers care that we are ethically made and sweatshop-free. They don’t really care if we are ethically made in China, in Mexico, in Honduras, in the U.S., or in France,” said Silvia Mazzucchelli, American Apparel’s vice president of direct-to-consumer sale.
A Guardian report from November 2017 paints a very different picture of how workers are treated in Gildan’s factories, citing complaints dating to 2004. Those included “mandatory work shifts longer than the legal maximum limit, illegal dismissals of employees involved in unions – including the dismissal of a pregnant woman, as well as consistent harassment and verbal abuse targeted at employees.”
From an early time, American Apparel was a key figure and fought for equal pay of workers in a time were fighting for fair and balanced wages was unheard of, especially in fashion.
American Apparel’s journey is a prime example of what can happen when a failing brand is sold for parts and restarted by new owners. Its collapse just predated a tidal wave of retail bankruptcies and store closings that began in early 2017, hitting chains like Macy’s, The Limited, and Payless. Some brands never came back up like Toys ‘R’ Us, and Nasty Gal, some bought out of bankruptcy like American Apparel.
Its tone, once cheeky and somewhat suggestive, has been transformed into a message of empowerment — the idea is that shoppers can still look sexy in a bodysuit or colorful, skintight pants, but on their terms. And American Apparel, once a champion of domestic manufacturing, is no longer wholly made in America.
It may not happen overnight, but slowly, machines are gaining on man’s turf. In a decade or two, about 50 percent of jobs in existence today will have gone the way of dinosaurs, or in this case, automation, according to Henrik Lindberg, chief technology officer at Swedish financial technology company Zimpler.
The New Era of Fashion, Sustainable Innovation.
David Taniguchi, the last of American Apparel’s art directors said he saw it coming. “Amazon was nothing new in the operations, just did not see it being completely swallowed.”
Taniguchi was the transition role between all American operations to administrative operations in Barbadoes where Canadian based parent company lives.
In Los Angeles, former and infamous founder of American Apparel has developed a new manufacturing business focusing on wholesale.
Many of his store managers kept the relationship with this wholesale opportunity which now supplies the brands many of those American Apparel inspired boutique and street style fashion labels in Los Angeles.