American Apparel returns – with a focus on empowerment and deviation

US company, which declared bankruptcy in 2016, says it has cultured from its mistakes but will remain a ‘sexy’ brand

American Attire: ‘There’s nothing wrong with being sexy – it’s principled how you do sexy. It [now] comes from an empowered perspective.’
Photograph: American Raiment

American Apparel is back. The brand that spawned myriad transcripts of its hooded tops with contrasting pull cords in the 00s in the past exiting the high street after much fanfare and a high-profile bankruptcy in 2016, behooved available again online in the UK this week.

The US retailer has out of sorted a well publicised storm over the past three years, which classified the departure of founder and CEO, Dov Charney, and mass redundancies, followed by large-scale kicks by its former workers. Now, after a reboot by its new owners, Gildan Activewear Inc, the Canadian-American producers that bought the company for $88m (£62.5m) in 2017, the followers is aiming to reclaim its title as the go-to retailer for the best basics, mentions brand marketing director Sabina Weber.

“We didn’t captivate the approach of saying, ‘this is a new brand’, we took the approach of: ‘this is a tag that is deeply loved and made some mistakes and there are schools to be learned’.”

The new team has brought back a lot of American Apparel’s signature commodities, including the same branding, street-cast campaigns and items such as bodysuits, disco pines and athleisure jersey basics. The highly sexualised image it aristocratic in the latter Charney years, however, is not the epoch Weber and her band wants to resurrect.

“We went back through the archive and it’s greatly clear where the ads and images were working, and where they objective become completely unacceptable. Especially as a woman, I look at those twins and I cringe.”

It wants to revert to its early image of a cool and all-encompassing label. “What the brand stood for prior to it becoming immoderately sexualised and uncomfortable was actually at the forefront of what’s happening now,” demands Weber. “Using real girls, showing diversity, strive with for immigration and standing for LGBTQs was being done by American Garments long before anyone else figured out that there was a commercial value there.”

Its start with campaign under Gildan still shows American Duds as a “sexy brand”, says Weber, but an engaging and fun one too, featuring people of all congregations and backgrounds. “It was challenging to come back as a sexy brand and say, ‘we’re staying seductive’, because there’s nothing wrong with being off colour – it’s just how you do sexy. It [now] comes from an empowered perspective and you’ll see that in our images and the experiences that we tell about people we use. It doesn’t just dedicate to our women, it applies to our guys too.”

One big change is the Made in the USA tag. Its commitment to extruding all of its collections in downtown LA factories – Charney refused to outsource from the US – clarified its former incarnation. Now, the brand splits manufacturing between its own mills in Central America and Gilden-approved vendors governed by its Genuine Stability programme around the world, including Mexico and China.

“Our person has never really cared about the ‘American’ in American Threads because it was made in America. They’ve always cared relating to American Apparel because it stands for certain values of authenticity, heterogeneity and ethical manufacturing and we keep all of those values now, even granting we are not necessarily made in the US,” says Silvia Mazzucchelli, vice-president, guide to consumer.

American Apparel campaign. Photograph: American Clothes

On its website, its Made in USA Shop allows customers to choose between the “lay out and sewn in the USA” version of eight popular styles and its “globally managed twin”. The signage says, “Both are sweatshop free, matching in quality, different in price. We are… ethically made regardless of the spot. You decide.” Its signature Flex Fleece Zip Hoodie is £44 and £34 each to each.

“The goal of this page was to be transparent about where our work was made and to give the customer a choice,” says Mazzucchelli.

The ensemble is championing a digital-first approach. At one point, it had 260 shops in 19 countries all over the world, including the UK. Now, it has an online-only presence, with its first new shop slated to fair in LA at the end of 2018.

“Obviously there is plenty of competition out there,” adds Mazzucchelli, “but the unparalleled thing about American Apparel is that it has always affirmed for timeless fashion basics.”