As a graphic designer I have done quite abit of screen printing and have designed clothing and merch for organizations. As well as being in fulltime ministry I have done most of this work for churches, camps, and other ministry organizations. Over the past few years, social justice, , Fair Trade, economic accountability, etc, etc, have led churches to being more ‘picky’ about the clothes they print onto, particularly, T-Shirts. For those of you in the “know” about blank t-shirt companies, such as Gildan, Alstyle, Fruit of the Loom, and others, they are not known as “sweatshop free” and “Fair trade” companies.(I’ll get back to them in a minute) Therefore, the much advertised, and now quite popular with young people, American Apparel, has risen as the company of choice for those looking for “made in USA”, Fair Trade, “Sweatshop Free” clothing. They have already established themselves into pop culture and if you don’t believe it, just visit an American Apparel store, one is found in downtown Saskatoon. Yes, American Apparel t-shirts in particular are nice, soft, and generally very well liked as a blank shirt to print onto for merch than say a heavy boxy Gildan shirt. BUT…these churches, ministries, youth groups that are ordering merch on American Apparel thinking that they are supporting a company with good values and fair trade and all that are being lead astray by its great marketing. Oh, I am not saying the shirts aren’t fair trade, and aren’t made 100% in American, but I am saying that the company has many short falls in its morality that we ought to be aware of before choosing to support them.

I encourage you to read the interview with the founder and CEO Dov Charney here on MSNBC.
Here is just one excerpt to read which will make your mouth drop.

In the videotaped deposition [this deposition was about a sexual harassment lawsuit], over several days, her lawyer grilled Charney about all of it.

Fink (the attonery of the women filing the lawsuit during deposition): Did you ever, at work, refer to women as “sluts”?

CEO Dov Charney: In private conversations, where such language was generally welcome.

Fink: Do you view “slut” to be a derogatory term?

Charney: You know, there are some of us that love sluts. You know, it’s not necessarily—it could be also be an endearing term.

Fink: An endearing term. Is that something you call your mother?

Charney: No. But it’s maybe something that you call your lover.

Fink (This is now back to the orginal dateline interview): I’m very difficult to floor me. That floored me when I heard his explanation that “slut” is an endearing term.

I hope you read the rest of this article, and if you really want to read more, just google, Dov Charney and you will get many more articles. If we truly are going to be more responsible in the Church for where God’s money goes, (yes all our money is His) then we cannot support this company. And that is why I don’t buy American Apparel anymore.

Now, back to the other companies. Just because Gildan, Alstyle and these other apparel companies have been around for so long, and because they don’t “market” themselves as Fair Trade, etc, etc doesn’t mean they aren’t. Here are some facts that you should know about these other companies.

Canadian owned (sounds better than “American” already), Gildan, became the first Activewear Apparel manufacturer to receive Fair Labor Association Accreditiation. When you ask? Back in June 2007. Actually they had the accreditation earlier, but had it revoked due to one factory, which they promptly shutdown and dealt with to receive the accreditation. Read about it in the company press release here

I couldn’t find as much info about Alstyle, but here is a quote from there “About us” page on their website.

Alstyle Apparel recognizes its responsibilities to workers for the conditions under which its products are made and that these responsibilities extend to all workers producing products or services for Alstyle. We believe that good workplace standards, decent health and safety requirements, fair pay and conditions, and care for the environment are important elements in business success.

I did find information about Fruit of the Loom, which also owns Russell Athletics. The information on them isn’t so good. In fact, 13 Universities in the States have ended their agreements to print school clothing on Russell due to Human Rights Violations. I won’t spend long on this company, only to say that I don’t think I would support this one either. Read about it here

I hope this has educated you and given you tools to make the right decisions about apparel. And if you are ever printing shirts and would like more info, design help, etc. Give me a call and I’d love to help.

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14 thoughts on “Why I won’t buy American Apparel

  • April 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm
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    Yeah, I have to admit that I’ve been a little ignorant in regards to what we print on. Thanks for the wake-up call!

  • May 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm
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    I just wanted to comment that in terms of your research I’m very disappointed. You should never compare companies based on how they describe themselves (in regards to Alstyle). Moreover, while agree that Dov Charley’s may have ethical issues American Apparel is know as a leader in the garment industry. American Apparel’s employee are paid twice the legal minimum wage in the State, and have good health packages. Always remember that Fair Trade is not simply about paying the bare minimum but about paying someone well, enough to contribute to the local economy and provide growth to their community.

  • May 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm
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    Thanks for your opinion. I will say that I did search for more info on Alstyle, and came up empty. But since then I have spoken to some people who work in the industry and they have backed me up in my opinions.

    Sure American Apparel, pays employees well, etc, etc. But at what cost? I am not willing to sacrifice sub moral practices in favor of “Industry Leading”, just because someone is known as the as a leader in something doesn’t make them “good.” And you state that American Apparel, “may” have issues? I think we don’t need to argue about whether or not they have issues. Fact is Dov and American Apparel do have issues.

  • February 10, 2010 at 2:12 am
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    Hello Daryl,
    My wife and I are in the clothing industry in Los Angeles. We do projects for department stores, etc. We are christians and support a positive workplace. I’ll be honest , we love to work. I love being able to give good people work. By the way, American apparel’s kind of pricey, even with wholesale discounts. Congrats on your baby girl.
    Michael

  • June 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm
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    Was wondering about Jerzees?
    I didn’t realize all of this about these companies. Thanks for the information. We had some hoodies made during the winter for our Small Christian Community. A shop owned by a fellow Christian printed them on Jerzees. So now I’m wondering about that company. God Bless you for taking a stand.

  • June 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm
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    Just found out that Jerzees is owned by Russell Athletic and you already posted comments about Russell. Thanks

  • June 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm
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    Thanks for the comments and for following up about Jerzees. I wasn’t aware of them either.

  • November 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm
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    I just had some shirts printed for a campaign at work and refused American Apparel at all costs, despite many MANY suggestions. But, it did give me a bit of a soapbox when people asked why I didn’t want AA.

  • January 14, 2012 at 9:15 am
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    Hey, i was actually part of the campaign at UW Madison to cut russell. Anyways, the major anti-sweatshop group in the country USAS does not credit FLA as a effective watchdog. They have much too close of a tie with the businesses they are supposed to oversee. Here is the WRC website (http://www.workersrights.org/). Also, their is a great factory in the DR that makes union-made sweatshop-free cloths. http://altagraciaapparel.com/. Thanks!

  • November 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm
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    Dov Charney’s opinion of the word slut is disgusting and derogatory towards women. However, I must point out that that is his PERSONAL opinion, not relfected in how women are treated in American Apparel. Both genders receive a heck of a lot of benefits working in AA factories (see more info here: http://www.americanapparel.net/aboutus/verticalint/workers/). If we were to explore the personal opinions of every CEO, I bet we would all find a reason not to buy from them. As long as they continue to be fair trade, I will continue to shop there.

  • November 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm
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    When push comes to shove, the brand, the image, and everything about the company is a reflection of his opinions and views though. While it is true that most companies CEOs would have some “dirty laundry” so to speak, but most companies CEOs don’t determine the whole value system of the company. It would be easy to imagine a AA having a different culture with someone else at the helm. I’m surprised the board still leaves him in charge.

    I’m glad that worker do get a lot of benefit, however, if company A and B both have good working conditions and are “fair trade” and one degrades women in advertising and one doesn’t; I’m going to buy from the one that doesn’t. Every time.

    Thanks for your opinions and sharing them openly.

  • November 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm
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    I reread the blog post. How did I not catch that this occurred in the workplace?!? I totally agree with you, Darren. If I had the choice to pick between AA and another company that does not do such a thing in the workpalce, then I would choose somewhere else.

  • June 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm
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    I’m happy I found your post. I have been trying to make a final decision about that shirts I use for my company. I started on Glidan 2000s but was worried about quality. I switched over to American Apparel, but not only are they very expensive, but I agree that I do not want to support the company.

    I know this is an old post, but I’d love any suggestions for a good company with shirts not made in sweatshops…

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