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American Apparel wins down under
The iconic Los Angeles-based retailer has become the epitome of hipster cool
The Age
Nina Hendy
September 12, 2009

American Apparel is making some serious waves on the Australian retail scene, which comes as no surprise to its legions of fans in Melbourne.

The iconic Los Angeles-based retailer has become the epitome of hipster cool, with its slim-fitting, logo-free clothes and racy advertising campaigns.

The company specialises in moderately priced, good quality basics with plain cotton T-shirts fronting a growing range that now also features skinny jeans, funky leggings, cotton sun-dresses, bags and coats - and more - for men, women and children.

The Australian operation has been buoyed by a growing number of Australian brand devotees, prompting it to put wholesale growth on hold in favour of establishing flagship retail stores.

American Apparel's first retail space opened in Melbourne's Chapel Street in March 2008, with stores in Sydney and Adelaide quickly following.

Part of the brand's success could perhaps be credited to its cautious and carefully planned rise to fame. American Apparel warily dipped its toe in the Australian market by booking a tiny stand at a fashion trade fair a few years ago in a bid to ascertain if Australians were interested in the cult-status all-American gear.

The answer was a resounding yes. The company was also careful about venturing into retail in Australia. favouring a soft launch.

The plan was to unlock the front door on its shiny new Chapel Street store at 4 pm on a Saturday in March last year with no promotion or fanfare and see what the reaction would be.

The store manager was shocked to find a crowd of more than 30 shoppers who had heard about the launch waiting on the footpath.

William Snell, retail co-ordinator for American Apparel Australia, explains that online sales from Australian brand aficionados have been steadily growing, which prompted its expansion into the local market.

"We had two different types of customers - those who didn't know American Apparel well and were keen to get to know us and those who had been buying our range online for years." While online sales continue to steadily grow in Australia, the brick and mortar stores aren't your average shopping experience with 300 square metres of retail space adding to the brand's larger-than-life persona.

William says that the average American Apparel T-shirt retails for less than $30, and the price tags on almost everything in the store are less than $100. "We stand for clean, simple, well-manufactured products and simple classics," he says.

"We make sure our stores are in great locations. And we seem to do well in these tougher economic times - there's no doubt that there is demand out there for basic items of clothing."

American Apparel is situated at 262 Chapel St, Prahran.