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American Apparel
Laura Marsden finds guilt-free fashion on Market Street
Body Confidential
Laura Marsden
January 2009

Where is it?
Unit 6
Market Street
M1 1WR
0161 832 2298

American Apparel was founded by Dov Charney around 1997. Originally, the company was a wholesale business producing basic cotton staples like t-shirts and sweaters. Significantly, they are a 'vertically integrated company.' This means that everything is produced in one factory, in downtown Los Angeles. Unlike the majority of other clothing manufacturers, American Apparel does not outsource or exploit workers in poor parts of the world.

A banner on top of the LA factory reads, 'American Apparel is an industrial revolution', which links nicely with the opening of a new store in Manchester, the birthplace of THE (proper) industrial revolution.

American Apparel have chosen not to mention that link which seems a slight shame - would have been nice if they'd have printed up flyers name-checking Cottonopolis, Abraham Lincoln and the history 'twixt the American Civil War and the Lancashire Cotton Famine. But they make t-shirts I suppose, not history pamphlets.

Who shops there?
As the company is still very much about simple, basic clothes, the range of customers should technically encompass absolutely anyone. American Apparel have been very clever though and have marketed themselves towards young, sexy, metropolitan types. Fruit of the Loom became inexplicably cool in the early 90s but American Apparel have taken the concept of making plain clothes fashionable and ran with it. That's not to say the customer base isn't broad though. They make clothes for men, women, boys, girls, dogs and babies.

The marketing is 60% sexiness, 40% ethical awareness which is a killer combination nowadays. Increasingly, people want to know where their clothes are made and who has made them. It is unsettling to handle a flimsy garment with a 'Made in Bangladesh' tag on it. American Apparel customers needn't have to deal with that kind of guilt. Everything is made in LA in a 'sweatshop free' environment. Immigrant workers are paid properly and enjoy bike sharing schemes and free phone calls to family abroad.

What does it sell?
Good quality basics. Made properly in a range of colours, the t-shirts, sweatshirts, vests, dancewear, underwear and other cotton products are the staples of the business and consistently sell well.

There is also the trendier side to the shop. At the moment, wet look, lamé leggings and disco pants are very popular as is the tri-blend unisex dancewear. No doubt you'll have already seen some girls sashaying around town like colder, more Mancunian versions of Olivia Newton-John in the 'You're The One That I Want' sequence of 'Grease'.

Why go there?
It's guilt-free, quality and stylish shopping at a price that seems pretty reasonable. Although the company has been criticised for using so called exploitative, sexually charged advertising, the other side of the argument is that no air-brushing is ever used and the models are usually members of staff or people who have sent their pictures to the CEO himself.

The online store has been going for ages so you can always use that too if a desired style is out of stock in store.

As the rest of Market Street stores seem to be suffocating under their own fluorescent, '50% off' signs, American Apparel oozes confidence. The company never does sales, ever. Even after Christmas. They just don't do them. Whether prices will drop in the New Year, who knows. They've been open in Manchester less than a week and are doing incredibly well, despite the recession.

Sexy, guilt-free clothing which won't fall apart or cost a bomb.
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