A week ago, I divorced my bum from the couch. It was painstaking. That’s right. The Educator got up one morning, smelled the coffee and decided she needed to get her ass a job at American Apparel. Of course I did research prior. It’s the contemporary thing to do. And you know… it’s freaking American Apparel; the essential ‘made in USA’ hipster supply store that stock terribly overpriced disco pants and leotards; who shove it in your face that they are indeed, ‘sweatshop- free.’ It’s crucial one knows what they’re throwing themselves into.
So, I was very tactful about the research I did. I wanted to strike a balance between being a ‘hating ass female’ who feels the need to get down to the bottom of every social atrocity American Apparel has committed
(aside from that green onesie I saw the last time I was there) while still finding enough justification online, for why I work there, in case I got hired and needed an excuse.
I started off with a positive bent. I went to their official site, maneuvered past the flashing images of spread legs and offensive camel toe and clicked on the ‘careers’ tab. They appeared accommodating. They featured pictures of immigrant factory workers. At the bottom, in tiny font it even read:
“American Apparel actively maintains a goal of equal employment and respectful treatment of all individuals without regard to race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, citizenship, veteran or military status, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or other protected factors. American Apparel strives to ensure that all employees enjoy equal opportunities and an atmosphere free from unlawful discrimination.”
The flashing images I had chosen to ignore prior, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the pale bare bums were a result of a shortage in fabric. Perhaps they ran out of the cashmere that would extend to the side of her boob. Maybe the worryingly complacent (in the most sexual way possible) faces on all the models were a product of fatigue from the long day they had to endure an underpaid, rookie photographer who yelled “CROTCH HERE CROTCH THERE CROTCH EVERYWHERE.”
However, it was slightly difficult to ignore the outright lack of representation. I found it hard to look past the lack of diversity in the female models. Maybe they have an aversion to non-pastiness. I was tempted to think that ‘pigment- free’ was on their set list of requirements. Except in their more tribal collection, where they implemented black males in order to contrast the stark white background, and complete the ‘black-white-white, black-white- white’ pattern they attempted to create. There were a handful of Asians thrown in that photograph too. But of course; no Black female representation. Not even the super shiny, super bald, exoticized variety. No biggie. It’s models. Models are not there to represent you and me anyway.
American Apparel claim to be progressive. There’s a long list of reasons why. Apparently.
- Higher-than-average wages for its factory workers, including health care benefits and stock options.
- They’re a vocal advocate for US immigration reform, and has been lauded as a beacon of equal rights for its foreign-born workers
- It boasts a clothing line that is vegan-friendly, and all clothes under the “Sustainable” label are made with 100% organic cotton.
The Educator thinks it’s cute how this ‘progressiveness’ (which I applaud) is expected to compensate for all the flagrances committed by this company. Starting with the sexual harassment suits filed by female employees both against the company and even more specifically it’s sex- crazed owner, Dov Charney who has been cited to say:
“I’m not saying I want to screw all the girls at work, but if I fall in love at work it’s going to be beautiful and sexual.”
Dov Charney’s eccentricity extends far beyond this. He’s been known to conduct business meetings in his underwear, masturbate in front of reporters and throw tantrums haphazardly. This list is not exhaustive. He’s been documented to keep nude pictures of female employees (he calls them his “sluts” and “whores”) on his desk, condones sex between employees,… yada yada yada.
Now, I understand that hypersexualization is American Apparel’s marketing strategy. Fair deal. Their advertising campaigns are softcore porn. Granted. However, I find it problematic when the owner is, potentially, a sex offender.
I’ve derailed. I set out to persuade you that, indeed, you’re not good enough for American Apparel. Well, let’s analyze their ‘equitable’ employment practices. First off, American Apparel does not hire ugly people. Their employment procedure involves the applicant taking a head-to-toe picture. The photos are then forwarded to @americanapparel.net where they are ‘approved’ by an anonymous person for hiring. This photo, allegedly, is the basis upon which one is hired, with one’s resume being a distant second. Employees have been cited to claim that the ‘photo approval’ also governs who gets a promotion and who gets a raise. American Apparel however argue, that this very blatant manifestation of lookism is just, simply and assessment of personal style and fashion sensibility. “It’s about intrigue, not beauty.”
There’s way too much to be said about their screening process, but perhaps, this is what really caused me to puke in my soup the most.
A former AA Manager claims to have received the following instruction as to what kind of black girl to hire during one of their open calls: “None of the trashy kind that come in, we don’t want that. We’re not trying to sell our clothes to them. Try to find some of these classy black girls, with nice hair, you know?”
“I will remember that forever, especially the “nice hair” part. He was instructing another manager and I on who to look for during an upcoming open call, and I sat there dumbfounded, listening to him speak while the other manager made “uh huh, got it” sounds on her end of the phone. The other manager on the call with me later became a district manager, and at one point instructed me to tell two of my employees (both of whom happened to be black females) to stop straightening their hair. I refused to do this, but wondered if the mentality behind her request was related to what Dov had said.”
Okay, so in a nutshell, I dragged my bum to American Apparel. Half because after all I’d read, I was going to see what these employees really look like, and half to apply for a job. Very very tentatively. So I dressed the part. Tried to appeal to the ‘American Apparel aesthetic.’ High bun. High waisted, cropped, color-blocked shiznit. I walked into the store as I tried to take their merchandise seriously. Holding myself from laughter at the ostentatious prices. Wondering how seriously one could really take a pair of tights, and other assorted ‘cotton essentials’.
On arrival with my friend, a crooked- nosed
twerp employee looked us up and down, and in a prudish, patronizing voice asked, ‘Can I help you’? And on fulfilling that duty, walked away. The general customer service experience was terrible, and when I offered my resume, of course… like I had predicted, it was received very dismissively.
I don’t want a call back.
I don’t want my picture taken.
I’m one of “these classy black girls, with nice hair, you know?”
I don’t need your approval.