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The Devil Wears American Apparel

Advertised as sweatshop free, fair-wages, medical insurance for all, made in the USA, American Apparel gives a minimalist, classic look to young and old. This company prides itself in being made in the United States, by legal workers who are payed no less than minimum wage to make clothing in their warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles. The factory is advertised to have a medical facility as well as a massage station for factory workers in need of a massage. The company’s image is of young, thin, girls modeling bodysuits, and often revealing clothes. It’s CEO Dov Chaney is a man in his 40s who avidly audits each of the worldwide stores. On Tuesdays there is a worldwide conference call which all stores much tune in and all regional managers are questioned to the last extent about sales and inventory numbers.

Living in New York City and going to an art school in the middle of Manhattan made some expectations for how people should dress. American Apparel offers a classic look, with their solid, vibrant colors and their clean, minimalist designs. Two of my friends found a job in the company during our junior year in high school. I applied through the way they recommend applying to their company, online. I submitted three pictures along with my resume. I never got a response back. One day, however, towards Halloween (the store’s busiest time of the year), I came into the store and I inquired about the job application they had a sign for, and to my knowledge later on, I spoke to the store’s manager. This store I inquired in was the flagship store, the store to represent all other stores in the city. The manager immediately gave me an interview without my resume and I got the job right away. Was it because I was wearing American Apparel as I inquired for the job? Maybe it was my outfit? Maybe they just needed more people? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t care. I was so excited to finally be able to abandon my job at a supermarket in Brooklyn for an elegant store. The look of the store and the tidiness that their employees always displayed sold the look and the appeal to work there. Not only was the look sold but also the motto of “Made in the USA,” which is a great contribution for a clothing market dominated by foreign importation. My experience working for American Apparel ranges as much as their management and professionally does.

As any new worker starting at the place they always wished to work, being payed much higher than minimum wage, I was very happy to start working at American Apparel. Not only was I already in a higher position than most people there but I quickly became friends with one of my managers because we had gone to school together and he had graduated two years before me. However, my experience with management in this store is perhaps the worst part of the job. Have you seen that movie, The Devil Wears Prada? Well, more like The Devil Wears American Apparel. I could talk about every single manager that I had while working there (There were six at all times, not all on the same shift of course), but it would take too long, so I will talk about just one. One girl two years older than me and already she was the meanest most condescending manager I could have possibly had. This was only juxtaposed with many laissez-faire managers who were easy going and generally nicer with their employees. Natison (not her real name), was a platinum blonde, size 0, girl who only wore black and sometimes white along with other shades of grey. Knowing that Natison was around made everyone so much more miserable to be working there. It wasn’t that she was so strict that made her a mean boss, it was how condescending she was. She was just not a nice person; I don’t know how to clearly explain it. Something that apart from her that made the job so intolerable after months and months of working there, was that managers came and went, and someone of them were so badly trained. I could have done their job much better, or at least I could have been more professional than them, until I got the chance to.

American Apparel thankfully has a young workforce (Child labor? no, when I was under age I worked no more than twenty hours a week, and no more than thirty-five when I was eighteen) and therefore their managers are only eighteen or nineteen if they start when they are sixteen or seventeen and show ample aptitude in how everything works or at least how everything should work, because let’s face it some of these managers where not capable of running a store, much less their employees. I think all stores where just so different in the type of training and policies that store wide managers imposed that no one really knew what was wrong versus what was right. Therefore, all lesser managers where unable to successfully train any employees and motivate any sort of store achievement, which the CEO imposed every month.

Retail is just not fun. There are many long hours where you just wait for a soul to come into the store and mess up the neatly separated hangers that you just meticulously arranged a thumb apart from each other. People would try to steal and it was just shameful. Towards the end of my career at American Apparel the store felt so claustrophobic and apathetic that I wanted to quit immediately and go home. I eventually quit because I moved to Vermont where the nearest American Apparel is about an hour drive from my school making the commute much longer than in New York City. I felt like I had so much more to offer the store. I learned everything I needed and had to know to be on the sales floor, while my unmotivated co-workers where lethargic to even talk to customers anymore.

Now, I look back at the times when I actually loved working there. The halloween season, where girls come in crazy looking for an outfit and ask you to dress them up. The times when I modeled the mens newest clothes for the store’s Instagram and corporate reposted it on their Instagram. The time when my manager friend and I would stand behind the cash register and talk to pass the time. The time someone called and asked what color and size underwear I was wearing. The times when we would laugh at the silly resumes we received and the times we knew exactly who was going to get hired when they walked through the door. American Apparel is modern chic and it gives the vibe of relevance yet in my opinion no on really shops there. I fell like more people should shop at American made clothing brands, be it American Apparel or not, but unfortunately it does add a monetary vacuum to your wallet. I miss working at American Apparel. If I ever do apply to work there again I would be happy to represent the look and perhaps also embody what the company stands for, sweatshop free, made in the USA, without being a terrible boss.

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