Letter to Get Better- Oh no, American Apparel, Stay American!

by - Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dear Paula Schneider and the Rest of the American Apparel leadership,

To start off with, I want you to know my family shops the hell out of your company. I have a couple of t-shirts, my husband made one of your sweatshirts part of his Halloween costume, and our son has your hoodie in every size:

wearing those beloved baby sweatshirts
Beyond just buying them ourselves, I have also recommended your company multiple times on my blog, where I encourage people to buy Eco-Friendly, Used, or Made in America products including clothing. I always pitch American Apparel as a cooler and more ethical source of basics than the Gap or Old Navy or American Eagle (why do they put "American" in the title when they aren't American at all?).

I was not sad to see the old CEO leave, since he was a real creeper, but I was worried to see you filed for bankruptcy. Since then, it seemed like you were bouncing back, but last week, there were reports that you laid off 10% of your workforce, about 500 people, and that this might be the first step you are taking before looking for cheaper labor options and maybe outsourcing labor.

In other words, you would be turning against what your company was founded on and taking away American jobs.

I get that something within your company (beyond the super creeper CEO) isn't working, and that you need to turn away from his legacy to succeed as a company. That makes sense, but I think you are looking at the wrong part of your company as problematic.

Cut the weird "Sexy" crap.

I buy your clothes because I like American-manufactured businesses, not because I want to look like a future underage victim of Terry Richardson. You seem to cling to this really awkward and sexist aesthetic where your male models pose like this:

from American Apparel

And your female models:

all from American Apparel today, not 3 years ago
Why do their clothes always look itchy? And why do they have dead eyes like they have been drugged? And why are you so sure we always need to see their butts? I as a woman, the person who would buy this, already have a butt. I know what they look like. Don't believe me? Someone's butt (and extreme sideboob? Are you proving back boob can be a thing?) literally greets you on the website today.

I don't know if you know, but this does not make me pine to buy your stuff, and in fact, I have been trying to politely ignore it. This sort of faux unposed, polaroid look is tied to a very specific moment, and now that moment isn't just over, it is tied to a bunch of men sexually abusing women (including your former CEO- why wouldn't you distance yourself further from that?). It makes your stuff seem dirty, not in a dangerous sexy way, but kind of like seeing a used condom out on a sidewalk. You received a lot of criticism for this when Dov Charney was still in charge.

 What is surprising is that it hasn't changed. You have even taken a stand to say gems like this are here to stay:

from Business Insider- really puts the baby hoodie in a different context, right?
Your director of marketing, Ryan Holiday, must really love that one Fiona Apple music video. When was that? 15 years ago? He says that your customers love this brand identity, so why change it?

How about because you are bankrupt, buddy? It's not just that your approach is sexist and gross, it's that it is BORING. It's not provocative or interesting, and honestly no one wants to look like this. If you want an instagram aesthetic, go look on there. The most famous and influential women aren't portraying themselves as stoned in a trailer park. No one wants the date rape connotations but you, and your weird cling to this aesthetic is now costing the American worker, so yeah, it bugs me.

 If you are looking for a reason why your brand is stuck, maybe this stale approach to how you sell yourself is part of the problem.

I can't say sexism doesn't sell- clearly it does, or it wouldn't constantly be in use, but what you are doing isn't interesting, amusing, or original anymore. It's time to move on.

Switching your aesthetic and branding may seem like a big leap, but reinvigorating the brand (or at least trying, Paula Schneider) might bring you some positive attention. for not being creepy pervs anymore. I don't think destroying all those jobs is a big PR plus. If you need to break and reinvigorate your company, maybe look at your branding and marketing instead of cutting jobs because the

So, for the love of all things eco-friendly and ethical, keep your manufacturing in America.

Need some new and fresh ideas to stay (or become) relevant? The moment your stores and business identity lingers in is long over. Does anybody want to look like a Terry Richardson picture anymore? Who is buying all of those bodysuits? Maybe you could partner with other American makers for special edition lines or have guest curators for your spaces. Play up your American connection instead of dissolving it.

I want to be clear- I have tolerated the advertising, but if you move your labor, you will never get our money again.  Ever. It is a genuinely horrible idea, and it really is the only original thing you have going on as a company. I will remove any recommendation I have given you and maybe write a blog on the alternatives to you (American Giant has softer sweatshirts, Reformation is cooler and less sexist, City Threads has similar basics for kids and babies ). I will move on faster than Ryan Holiday can say "oh show more of her butt", as will tons of consumers, and you will deserve it.

I have loved your company's commitment to sweatshop-free clothing, and I am rooting for you to not fail, but continuing on the path you are on now, to me, is a failure. You can do better!

Sunshine Guerrilla

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