It’s no secret our nation is one that likes stuff. Consumerism, materialism, whatever you call it, it isn’t going away and I’m no stranger to it. My 4 closets (I know people who have more!) are proof. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I like stuff, you like stuff, a lot of us like stuff. But how to make it sustainable? By buying US made goods.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the largest manufacturer of US made clothing centered right in the heart of downtown LA – American Apparel. Thanks to the amazing Fort Collins silk screener, Go West, I was allowed an inside tour of American Apparel – something not accessible to the public.
The biggest awe factor was the sheer size of American Apparel. You’ve seen their retail shops, you probably own several shirts made by them, and by size comparison, the shirts you own are like ants on the continent of Australia. There’s so much going on in those old, tall, symmetrical, industrial buildings!
American Apparel is also progressive. They have a laundry list of social ethics that I feverishly scribbled down through-out my tour. Some of my favorites: subsidized meals, an in-house medic, phone lines that call free-of-charge to Mexico, fair, open market labor wages and free massages for repetitive motion areas of the body. Not to mention they recapture all scraps to be made into something sellable.
Then there are the neons and star-spangled leotards and the many garments most people won’t wear in public. They have items that are sassy and plain, tight and baggy, urban and refined. American Apparel has major street cred, but it’s quite possible your parents have shirts they’ve made, which is really what gets down to the most sustainable part of their business; they break the crunchy granola mold to penetrate normalcy.
American Apparel brings something to sustainable that isn’t always seen – edginess. This makes them known as “that t-shirt company who displays discriminate pictures of mostly naked women who look strung out on their website,” which is true. But, you have to admit, their website is sexier than any other t-shirt company out there. This gives them an advantage to be seen by the mainstream, to garner more PR, to make a larger statement in the world of all things eco, to make a bigger splash. Call it what you want, but I’m proud that many people at this very moment may be wearing American Apparel – something sustainable – and not even know it. When we can replace something unsustainable with something that is without even knowing we’ve done so, we all win.
And so it is; American Apparel = winning. I am an American and I like stuff. American Apparel makes me feel good about my purchases. No forming new habits or retraining, just freedom to go with what I like and not having to miss out on anything. Kickin’ it right, stateside.
a. American Apparel van.
b. American Apparel HQ building.
c. Me wearing an American Apparel bathing suit on my head. I ended up buying it.
d. Be Well sign posted in an American Apparel HQ stairwell.
e. Fabric art piece hanging in the American Apparel HQ waiting room.
f. Palletized scraps of fabric waiting to be repurposed.
g. Neon sign hanging in the American Apparel HQ waiting room.