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That's American Apparel
Nahoko Mori
Summer 2007

Over the last few years, many culture and fashion magazines (including our own) have taken notice of American Apparel. Their colorful, simple items and cute but slightly erotic advertisements and visuals are loved by many, and the brand continues to gather immense popularity. This issue we stop in the American Apparel archive located in the brands' birthplace of downtown L.A.

American Apparel was founded ten years ago in 1997. At first they didn't have any original items or flagship stores like they do now, and focused instead on wholesale fabrication for other apparel brands. That's why nowadays if you look at tags of some hand-printed art or graphic t-shirts you will see that the actual shirt was made by American Apparel. The turning point came in 2003, when their first shop in opened in L.A.'s Echo Park neighborhood and received a big response. Since then, by offering basic items that anyone can wear, as well as a large number of products in a wealth of colors, they have matured into a global brand beloved by people worldwide. Now they have 7 stores in L.A. alone, as well as 148 more locations in 12 countries around the world.

Though American Apparel grew rapidly, all of their planning, design, manufacturing and visual work is still done at their large factory in downtown L.A. Compare this to the way most major mainstream brands employ planning and creative and rely on outside labor for production, this is pretty unbelievable. Also, though it isn't widely known, American Apparel's business concept places great importance on the environment, and they practice a thorough environmental protection policy. They have developed a Sustainable Edition product line that uses only organic cotton, and their L.A. factory utilizes solar power systems in order to reduce electrical consumption. Also, all of the fabric scraps from producing their goods is recycled.

Having distinguished themselves from other apparel brands in both practices and design, it only follows that American Apparel's visual advertising also makes use of their own original techniques. The impact this advertising has had on their brand image these last few years is large. Their visuals don't make use of fantastic locations or detailed graphic processing, and their models, though portrayed in a cute manner, are still very easy to relate to and natural. Suitable for a down-to-earth brand yet overflowing in originality, these visual presentations were started when CEO Dov Charney started taking pictures of his girlfriend and friends at his home or their company-owned housing. Though they have taken on many amateur photographers since then, Charney himself still serves as the main photographer.

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