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Making Unitards Hot
Georgetown Voice
Lauren Gaskill
November 17, 2005

Have you ever wanted to wear a unitard? How about a one-piece velour romper, or a halter mesh bodysuit? One brave company is making these dreams not only possible, but sexy. Corporate starlet American Apparel's ethical business model, sexually provocative advertisements and just plain well-made cotton clothes are all the rage in circles from the fashionable to the financial.

"We're currently opening three to six stores per month globally," Global Media Relations Director Cynthia Semon said in a recent interview. The company, which started in 1997 manufacturing t-shirts to sell for screen-printing, has stores in 11 countries today with big plans for expansion, including a store in Washington, D.C. by the year's end.

It is company founder Dov Charney's vertically integrated model, though, that is truly revolutionary. The company designs, manufactures and markets all under one roof in Los Angeles. The company mission states that without costly outsourcing to sweatshops, they can pay the highest wages in the garment industry, and simultaneously respond faster to market demand.

"[He's a] unique visionary in the apparel business," Semon said of Charney. "Very few people could do what he's doing." The image he successfully sells is that of casual comfort infused with youthful sexual prowess. The advertisements, which he often photographs himself, have a lo-fi, Photoshop-free look that is startling in a world of digitally enhanced media. The models used are real people, including many American Apparel employees. The images of pouty-lipped girls in wet t-shirts, close-ups of bare inner thighs and the subtle shading of nipple through tops catch the attention of thousands that see them in the pages of Vice Magazine (for which Charney is also a contributing photographer), on the Internet and in Los Angeles storefronts.

But the simple, solid and sexy clothes are even more desirable against the backdrop of such a transparent enterprise. The website describes employment opportunities in detail, with contact information listed in extremely user-friendly fashion. There are also photographs and short films chronicling worker events and factory environs, with descriptions of perks and health benefits, making every bit of the company visible to outsiders.

This winter, when the store opens in D.C., it will be worth the Circulator Bus trip downtown to check out the venture for yourself. Between the photos on the walls, the colorful array of merchandise and the unbeatable prices, there will be something for everyone. Besides, it certainly would not hurt to see Georgetown mix it up a bit with some L.A. styling.