When I think of American Apparel, the clothing company based in my home town of Los Angeles, whenever I see one of its hyper-sexualized billboards (or Web site, where the picture came from), or stumble across one of its ubiquitous retail outlets, I smell a fish. And I've run across them often, in cities as far flung as Montreal, or even Soeul. That company has stores everywhere. Many, many of them. I just passed one on the way to Malibu that was on water-front property, in fact.
And there was that fish smell again -- and it wasn't coming from the ocean.
According to the American Apparel entry on Wikipedia, "The company was ranked 308th in Inc.'s 2005 list of the 500 fastest growing companies in the United States, with a 440% three-year growth and revenues in 2005 of over US$ 211 million." They have 200 retail locations world-wide, and while that is only a fraction of the thousands of stores that a company like the Gap has, I still find myself asking: Who is wearing this stuff?
For all of American Apparel's rapid growth, it's retail stores cropping up in malls and on high streets the world over, I can't put my finger on one piece of their clothing in my closet. Moreover, I don't know anyone else who can. And to achieve the kind of growth that a company like the Gap has achieved, you'd have to have Gap-like ubiquity. Let's face it: everybody wears clothes from the Gap. You may not always want to admit it, but you wear them. And everyone you know does too.
And is that so bad? The quality is there, so who needs to know your cotton cable-knit pullover didn't come from, say, Nordstrom? Bloomingdales? Any other place with more cache? American Apparel doesn't have near the quality of the Gap, and though the price point may be tantalizingly low, wear too much of it and you won't look Gap stylish, you'll just look, well .... cheap.
So how, I ask you, HOW does this store not only stay in business, but spread. Like a brush fire. The answer is, it can't last. Mark my words, American Apparel is not long for this world.