It was an age when Urban Outfitters was becoming a little too corporate and vinyl was slowly making its comeback, where craft beer was at its infancy, Williamsburg and Silver Lake were mere neighborhood names, and no one quite yet knew what an iPhone was for. It was here that American Apparel stood independent for all that was cool. Made in America, and worn by the young, these colorful clothes were what we’d been asking for – fitted, retro, and simple.
In the early to mid aughts, every 20-something in LA and New York had on at least one piece of AA clothing (and probably a bump of coke in their nose). It drove a sub-culture of youth that celebrated fresh, understated style in ways that made the GAP desperate to catch up. The slightly slutty cuts, the decade defining deep V-neck tees, the knee socks and rainbow variety underwear, and the hoodies, oh god, the hoodies, were ubiquitous. These were the good old days.
Flash-forward 12 years later and New York’s Lower East Side is a shopping mall annex, Echo Park is yuppies and strollers, and American Apparel has gone belly up. That’s right, downtown kids of yore, soon we will have to buy our weird head scarfs somewhere else.
It was announced this week (and has long been rumored) that American Apparel could close all of its stores before the Summer of 2017. Purchased by Canadian company, Gildan Activewear, for a reported $88 Million, the tale of doom is swirling that this could be the end for the retail giant.
Emerging in 1989, American Apparel was Los Angeles at its finest. It flourished and struggled for many reasons over the years, mostly because of its insanely provocative ad campaigns and for its founder, Montreal-born Dov Charney’s many run ins with the law – his sexual misconduct was infamous.
On the ruination of his baby, former CEO Charny is quoted by Take Two as saying, “American Apparel failed because of corruption and incompetence. The company was hijacked by financial forces and it was destroyed. This was a company that was the pride of the worldwide apparel industry. It was the first company that was able to generate serious cash flow … This company was a huge success, and at the same time, we were able to pay living wages to our workers.”
This is a hard moment in our generation’s history. With the loss of a brand that spoke directly to us – and for us – one that celebrated in our resistance against the things we hated most, like the establishment and Prop 8, it seems it truly could be the end of a cherished era. Fondly we will look back on the alterna-girls that ran those painted white stores, the cute, tattooed boys that stocked the racks, the no-fucks attitude that blasted from the ads, and the striped socks that will always have a special place in our hearts.
AA, we will always love you.