"And I said to myself, I've gotta fight or I'm going to die"

I wore this to:
- present feral cat info to a college club
- office work, for a long time

04-01-11 pictures 051
american apparel l/s shirt
gifted, skirt
tights, maggies organics
sweatshop retail shoes

I know people might be surprised to find that I still list American Apparel by brand name, given their issues. I think the owner is a total scumbag and ideally I'd never support him. I have mixed feelings because the workers have better conditions than say, places that still manufacture overseas. In most of those manufacturing plants there is still sexual abuse and there is even less recourse for it. It just slays me that some people who readily avoid AA (for good reasons) are okay with buying at large chains that manufacture overseas without many checks and balances. Do they think much worse things don't happen there? Or is it just because it's expected so it's less of an issue? Or is it because it's not happening to American women?

Ideally I'd be wearing clothes that aren't associated with someone with a background of sexual violence but, in my mind, AA is less associated with sexual violence than say, (my assumptions of) H&M or any store that doesn't have strict labor standards overseas.

Honestly, I wish there were much better options than American Apparel readily available. Given that they're probably finally filing for bankruptcy, I won't likely need to have that moral conflict any longer.

Of course, I'm happy to hear your thoughts on the matter, as well!

I'm going to be adding a tab to this blog with some options for fair labor and environmentally conscious options. I had started compiling it for my own good to remind myself of all the decent options to focus on out there (instead of convenient options or whatever I've seen and liked recently options) -- but, you know, sharing is caring.

** The quote is from a Sister George song about sexual violence. I can't place the quote and I don't know if the record credits it. It's always stuck with me and I know more of us than not can sympathize with having been in similar situations. It does sit very heavily with me that women who may be making our clothes may be having the same thought.


  1. Interesting thoughts. I have similar conflicts about AA. Especially after reading that AA made itself "Sweatshop free" because it wanted to compete against SweatX, the Ben and Jerry's company that folded. I don't actually think AA stuff is of the highest quality (though higher than Target's leggings) and DC is clearly a scum bag. However, in defense of H&M, they actually do have some pretty good labor policies, but their problem is that that they have problems enforcing through a massage supply chain. And did you know GAP is trying to incorporate a very high standard for itself in terms of labor standards (like certification for every or almost every factory in its supply chain)? H&M and Gap (and AA) are much more questionable in terms of waste and environmental practices, because of the fast fashion aspect. Anyway, all good thoughts. I am avoiding Target because of their significant political contributions to homophobic and Tea Party candidates now (I can't shop anywhere anymore).

  2. (Sorry, here is the citation on AA's incorporation of the sweatfree ideology as a business practice: http://clamormagazine.org/issues/38/aa/savoie.php)

  3. I definitely did avoid AA for their sexual harassment issues, as well as the more pragmatic issue of "Dov Charney hates my body shape and does not make clothes for it or anything I can bend over in." I did buy two groupons for AA because I see it as some sort of compromise. As Rad in BK said, quality isn't always one of their strong points, though I've found that H & M and Gap brand clothing hold up very well. In general, I'm trying to buy less overall instead of just more consciously.

    I do wonder how professional bloggers who constantly are thrifting and getting freebies even get dressed - keeping my closet and dresser neat makes me panic, and I can't imagine how they get dressed at all, let alone put together coordinating outfits.

  4. The AA issue is complicated indeed. After all the crap I've read about it, even hearing the company name makes me feel uncomfortable these days. That's not to say that I don't also feel uncomfortable about H&M... or any other cheap retail company. They all have a dark side, one way or another, whether it is environmental issues or sexual harassment. Like Rad, I recently read about Target's political contributions to the Tea Party as well. Ugh. Looks like there is no winning (excuse my Sheenism) with cheap clothing manufacturing.

  5. Oops, forgot to say that I love that skirt on you. :)

  6. I'm lucky in the fact that I don't buy clothes. I get some items from my parents at Christmas and on my birthday and I have no idea where they get them from, I assume the Northwoods Mall in Peoria, Illinois. The last time I bought anything was my Dr. Martens boots from a store on 14th Street a couple of years ago. I don't know if they sexually harass their employees, but I did have a certain amount of satisfaction out of buying boots that are similarly named as myself. It made me feel complete.

  7. I can see your reasons for buying AA over who-knows-what made who-knows-how in who-knows-where, but there isn't an AA in my area and their website is too softcore for my present needs.

    I didn't know about Target and the Tea Party! Cuss cuss cuss. I never shop there because it's out of my town, but still. I wanted more fishnet socks.

    Can't wait to see your new tab! I'm trying to move my wardrobe in a more conscientious direction, but my wardrobe is looking so shabby that it's hard not to do something rash.

    Also, would you please add me to your "I Read..." list?

  8. I love your outfit! However, I didn't know about the issues behind AA - is there an article or something that you can direct me to? Thanks! :)


  9. You bring up a great point. But does this mean that a company is just made up and through this one person? (who just happens to be awful?)

    Recently a friend directed me to this blog pennychic dot com (dont want to directly link) - of girls who solely dress from Walmart on the point that people say walmart doesnt have cute clothes. But I think the larger point there is that Walmart is an awful company that really is a bad example compared to American Apparel.

    Sometimes I feel like you can't win - we just need to start making our own clothes!

  10. Also, thank you so much for giving me the information on the horse racing, I appreciate it beyond words and comments!

  11. I've been quietly reading your blog for a while now, Jesse, but I had to speak up and say that I am really glad that you brought this up. Last year I attempted to not buy(retail) anything made outside of the USA so, for a hot minute, AA became my go-to place for tights and t shirts. In actuality, I just stopped buying retail clothes altogether because trying to find stuff that I feel 100% good about is exhausting and impossible. The upside was that I pretty much broke any and all of my crass retail ways... although nice shoes are still tempting. Anyhow!

    Around halfway through doing this, most of the world finally caught onto AA being run by a shameless scumbag. I thought that this was kind of old news. While maybe any reaction against exploitation of workers should be a good one, I was pretty put off by people only getting their 100% organic cotton panties in a twist when the most visible employees of the company (pretty models!) came out with sordid work-related tales. I know it's wrong, but I'd shrug off Terry Richardson berating 1 model while Dov Charney talks about his cock if it means that 100 of my seamstressing sisters in LA can have access to healthcare, living wages, a safe work environment and other benefits that encourage them to be treated like human beings.

  12. Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I'm sorry I wasn't around real-time when this posted to get to respond but I think some really good points were made here.

    Re: AA quality -- for me, it's totally depended on the piece. The fleece tulip skirts had waistband issues for me while the pocket-front minis were worn a good 25x each with no issues, as was the nylon navy dress/tunic. And I wear primarily their tap pants underwear and they've been perfect. My two "girlfriend" flouncy skirts have been fine, as have the heathered t-shirts and the long-sleeve t's. My only issue with them has been their tulip skirt waistband.

    @ Rad - I think it's interesting that GAP was one of the first brands called to the table on the labor issue as early as 2003 and they still haven't managed to get a handle on it in the past 8 years, which doesn't inspire confidence in me. I agree re the waste point but I think AA might be slightly better - a lot of their leftover stock remained in stores for quite a while instead of being throw in the trash and punched with holes to avoid resale. I'm not sure if that's because of the issue they had with Blackrock @ that time, when they supposedly ordered that manufacturing slow.

    I had vaguely heard about the competitive anti-sweatshop angle but didn't realize it was a company backed by Ben & Jerry's (which also makes me ask why the heck they couldn't stay in business?). That brings me to a question that I can never really answer for myself - if someone is bringing something to the market that suits my needs, does it matter how well they personally endorse it? I struggle with that both in the labor and vegan areas. Ideally I'd be able to find out that suits my needs AND has a genuine philosophy that supports it but it's rarely that possible!

    {And that echos @Waves point as well - it's true - they all have a darkside. After all, it's all about $$$.}

    @ Marty - I can imagine. If only there was something named so closely to my own name.

    @ Rebekah - Here, they're everywhere! There's got to be at least 25 in NYC. Also, I've added you! That you for pointing that out!

    @Evelina - here is one of the latest: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/03/dov-charney-american-apparel-ceo-is-sued-by-four-women-alleging-sexual-harassment-.html

    Overall AA's had a very dicey history with alleged rapes happening at company functions, with Dov Charney masturbating in front of staff and reporters, etc. They've also had financial issues and illegal worker issues.

    @ Eli - That is a very good question and I'm not sure I know the answer for myself. If that's the case, there are probably SO many scuzzy people in every business that I don't know how I'd buy anything ever again? Most of them just don't like being such an extrovert about it though! Also, thank you so much for your comment re the horses! I hate bringing stuff up like that sometimes because I don't want people to feel like I'm preaching/being a downer so I am so glad you didn't feel that way because I would never mean it that way!

    @E.Elizabeth - Thank you for posting a comment and I agree with your last sentence. I feel the same way. I feel like I'm never going to see a situation that's 100% perfect and I'm just looking for the greater good.


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