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Sweatshop-free clothing sold at Carytown store
Richmond Times Dispatch
Gregory J. Gilligan
July 17, 2006

The nation's largest garment factory operator, which makes clothing in a sweatshop-free environment in downtown Los Angeles, has opened a store in Carytown. American Apparel took over space in the Cary Court Shopping Center, selling colorful basic cotton clothing with nologos or decoration that appeals to young, hip consumers. The fast-growing company sells fashions for women, men and children -- even a shirt for dogs, spokeswoman Cynthia Semon said.

"It is good, basic casual wear," she said. "They are a solid staple in your closets."

American Apparel makes and designs all of its clothing. It began in 1997 by making T-shirts and selling them as a wholesaler.

But the company expanded its merchandise lineup and its reach by operating its own stores.

The first store opened in 2003, and now it has 140 locations globally. Plans call for about 70 more locations to open this year.

Sales soared to nearly $250 million last year, up from $20 million in 2001, Semon said.

The company opened its first Virginia store in Carytown because of the area's young and socially-conscious consumers. "The demographics were right and Richmond has been going through an urban renewal."

The merchandise, from polo-style shirts, skirts and shorts to sweats, underwear and socks, is made with no sweatshop labor, she said. Workers earn between $12.50 to $20 an hour and have benefits including insurance.

"A sweatshop-free environment is good, but you have to make a quality product," she said. "We make that quality product and people come back."
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