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American Apparel celebrates 15th birthday with factory tour at Downtown headquarters

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Friday, March 30, 2012, at 09:52AM
Andrew Lopez

American Apparel has been known for their advocacy of workers' rights.

Los Angeles-based clothing company American Apparel celebrated its 15th birthday with a tour of their factory headquarters in Downtown Thursday.

The 2 million sq. ft. factory sees approximately 5,000 employees pass through its doors each day, is where everything from marketing strategies to the actual sewing of clothes takes place, said chief manufacturing officer Marty Bailey.

“This company wasn’t built by one man,” Bailey said. “It was built by thousands and thousands of people.”

The brief tour revealed a staggering amount of workers quietly constructing each piece of clothing -- one-by-one in a loud, large and undecorated room. Bailey said there are currently 2,700 professional sewing operators working at the factory.

Councilman Jose Huizar was also in attendance, commending American Apparel’s advocacy and leadership role in workers’ rights.

“It is companies like American Apparel that have a conscience for who their workers are,” Huizar, who represents some of Downtown, said. “To ensure they have a livable wage that has allowed young immigrants in this country to pursue and be part of the American Dream.”

But does the councilman own any American Apparel gear himself?

Huizar said he did own a few t-shirts, and after seeing the fashion-conscious employees at the factory, he was considering taking a closer look at some other items.

“I’m looking at all their workers and they all have some pretty cool clothes on,” Huizar admitted. “I’m going to start looking for more American Apparel."

Dov Charney, the company’s founder and CEO, was not present for the press conference, though he was expected to speak. Charney, ironically a Canadian, recently signed a new contract to extend his position as CEO for another three years with a base-minimum pay of $800,000, the Fashionista reported.

So where was the notorious Charney on his company's birthday?

“Who knows,” Bailey said. “We’ve got a lot of things going on right now. That’s Dov, always focused on the business.”

It hasn't been all good news for the company, though. The L.A. Times reports that while the company's losses have decreased, they still haven't emerged from millions of dollars in debt.

Bailey said although he's not the most qualified person to speak to about the company's financial future, he believes business will continue to grow.

"We've had our ups, we've had our downs," Bailey said. "We're all a very resilient group of people."

Meanwhile, located less than two miles away, it was business as usual at the Little Tokyo American Apparel store.

The hottest items leaving the shelves are hoodies and nail polish, said an employee who wished not to give her name because of a confidentiality contract she signed.

Despite the harsh, $1 million fine for talking to journalists as reported by Gawker, she revealed that overall she enjoys working for the company.

"They encourage a lot of creativity," she said. "They want to hear employees and shoppers."


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