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Sweatshop-Free Shopping: American Apparel Opens
Colleen Egan
January 3, 2006

After months of waiting and wondering, t-shirt enthusiasts can relax now that American Apparel (11th/F St. NW) has opened in the District. The store has been open less than two weeks, but given the clientele over the weekend we suspect some sort of blast fax was sent out in the hipster community.

American Apparel began as a t-shirt company, but has since expanded its line of clothing for men, women and children to include everything from gold lamè string bikinis to sweet white baby bibs. The store features a floor-to-ceiling Technicolor rainbow of t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, skirts and pants of thin jersey material—ideal for layering.

In addition to modern shapes and styles (like t-shirts long enough to camouflage low-rise denim-induced plumber's crack), the store also resembles what we imagine the wardrobe department at "Three's Company" might have looked like. Members Only-esque windbreakers, tube socks, pastel briefs, super short '70s style athletic shorts, terry headbands and wristbands—you can as easily outfit yourself for a night at the bar as an afternoon roller-skating date.

Some shoppers might be uncomfortable with the coed dressing room, but we found it provided a unique insight into the male shopping psyche, as the the guy in the dressing room next to us was continually reassured by his friend how hot he looked in the merchandise.

American Apparel has a reputation for employing a young, attractive staff and fostering a laid-back atmosphere, and the D.C. store is no different. (It's much different, however, from our experience shopping at an American Apparel in Boston, when this DCist's friend was offered a free t-shirt to dance in the window after a sales associate observed that he was "really feeling the music.")

The fast-growing American Apparel, which prides itself on its sweatshop-free clothing production and fair labor practices, has gotten as much attention for its business model as it has for its provocative advertising campaign (think mid-'90s CK ads with a dose of Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video) and the antics of its senior partner, Dov Charney. Last year, Charney was sued by three female former American Apparel employees who alleged he sexually harassed them, which he denies.

Charney, who is Canadian, was quoted in June in BusinessWeek, saying, "I think it's a First Amendment right to pursue one's affection for another human being." According to the article, Charney also feels free to pursue consensual sexual relationships with coworkers. Why, that never happens in D.C. Oh, wait...
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