Thirty-six-year-old Dov Charney feels the same way. He too is a T-shirt fanatic, sharing his passion for this timeless, universal classic with the public when he opened American Apparel. Montreal-born Charney founded the company in the late ’90s, giving fellow aficionados in search of the perfect tee a sense of camaraderie.
AA champions being sweatshop free. Their 800,000-square-foot, seven-story pink factory building located in the Downtown Industrial District on Alameda Corridor has over 3,200 employees doing everything from designing, sewing, cutting, knitting and shipping.
Sticking to its sweatshop free ad mantra, the company is open to anyone taking a tour of its downtown facility. What you’ll find is up-to-date equipment run by safety-trained operators, clean and organized workstations and skilled workers. AA watches out for its workers to make sure no one is exploited or harmed in any way. For instance, members of the sewing team cover their noses and mouths with masks or strips of material so as not to inhale the bits of fiber that flow through the air.
"I think just in this particular [garment] industry there is such an abuse of this working demographic and there has been. Our thinking behind the concept of sweatshop free was to really demonstrate our exemplary workplace, exemplary initiative to have an environment that takes dignity into account," says Roian Atwood, coordinator of Community Relations and Organic Programs. "Where people earn a living wage, have access to medical care and all basic amenities needed to live a healthy and positive lifestyle."
AA is a one-stop shop that not only sells shirts but also boasts in-house operation. Last year, the company made $35.6 million in sales and has plans to double that by the end of 2005. It’s unlikely they will be out of stock of anything since they have over 125 styles in over 31 colors. This could be either a blessing or a curse for the buyer who may have a difficult time choosing which styles to get now and which to get later.
Now, AA is looking to focus its attention elsewhere. Atwood says the company will shift to a broader vision of how it can be a business model for the future. The company’s plan has not been done in the apparel industry before.
AA is a vertically integrated manufacturer, which means AA owns and operates more than one part of its supply chain. In working this way, the company has an edge over its competitors, allowing for a faster turnout rate. Atwood says that any order made before 5:30 Pacific Standard Time will be shipped the same day.
The company’s only flaw is having their vast and expensive inventory stored in their warehouse. The upside is that they will always have product available.
AA prides itself on using 100 percent organic cotton, which is chemical free. This way the trend-conscious can look great and the Earth-conscience can feel guilt-free. This hasn’t hurt their figures any either; the company has had a 667 percent growth rate over the last four years. AA will open two more stores in Los Angeles – there are eight now – and others internationally in London, Paris and Germany. You won’t see any ads on sales because their cost is already reasonable ranging from $15-$60.
According to Atwood, AA is always looking for enthusiastic people to join their team as the company continues to grow. "We want to have a strong presence in the apparel retail space. We found that the best way to do that is to move quickly and swiftly and open stores at a rapid expansion rate throughout all those locations."
For more information or to find the American Apparel location nearest you, visit www.americanapparel.net.