American Apparel is back from the dead—or bankruptcy, at least—with a soon-to-launch digital store and Vancouver-shot lookbook to prove it.
The Los Angeles–based retailer, which was once a destination for hipster staples and “Made in the U.S.A.” basics like crewneck Ts, bodysuits, and high-waist denim, will re-enter the Canadian market via an online store on November 1 following a successful relaunch in the U.S. last year.
Now owned by Gildan Activewear—ironically, a Montreal-based business—the reincarnated American Apparel offers many of the same men’s, women’s, kid’s, and unisex threads it did before filing for bankruptcy in 2015 and 2016. These include the company’s zip-up hoodies, ’80s-inspired disco pants, knit legwear, and raglan Ts—each of which comes in a rainbow of bright hues that longtime customers should be familiar with. Prices range from $18 for crop tanks to $99 and up for jackets.
In addition, the brand has a new marketing approach, pivoting from the sleazy—and, oftentimes, straight-up inappropriate—imagery that previously shrouded it in controversy to materials that champion diversity, “natural beauty”, and body positivity. Its fall/winter 2018 lookbook, which was shot in Yaletown and Gastown and on Vancouver Island, features unretouched models that were cast from an open call on social media and represent a range—albeit a small one—of ethnicities and body types.
“This campaign is our authentic brand DNA represented by some powerful, inspired imagery,” Sabina Weber, director of marketing at American Apparel, said in a media release, “and we were so thrilled to make real Canadians a part of our latest chapter.”
That’s not to say that American Apparel has abandoned sex appeal altogether: some of the promotional pics on the global website are still pretty provocative, but they’re far from softcore-porn-masquerading-as-a-sock-ad bad. The company is also continuing its commitment to making ethical, “sweatshop-free” garments, though it’s expanded its production beyond the U.S. to include facilities in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Bangladesh.
According to the American Apparel website, workers at these centres receive subsidized meals and access to 24-hour clinics, among other benefits, and “earn significantly more than the legally-mandated minimum industry wages in all countries where we operate.”
American Apparel was founded by Montreal businessman Dov Charney in 1989, and at its peak, operated more than 250 stores around the world. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and again in 2016, following a string of scandals and sexual-harassment lawsuits involving Charney. All its brick-and-mortar stores were subsequently closed. Gildan purchased the brand and its intellectual-property rights for USD$88 million in January 2017, though the deal did not include American Apparel's retail locations, manufacturing and distribution centres, and e-commerce site.More