Monday, 15 April 2013

The Truth About American Apparel

This morning I was scrolling down my Tumblr feed when I saw a post headed with the American Apparel logo. I was surprised to see a mass of comments below it left by AA employees and other Tumblr users.

The first three comments read;

"I worked at American Apparel for two years. During the time that I worked there, the company implemented a company-wide recruitment policy where any person applying for a position must be photographed (1 headshot, 1 body shot) The actual resumes were thrown in the garbage. These photos were then sent to a company email address where someone would either give a thumbs up or down to the photographs. Staff were encouraged to recruit instore and on the street and were given a $100 bonus for every person they got approved.
Before this was implemented, all existing staff were photographed (again, 1 headshot and 1 body shot) Anyone deemed to be physically unworthy was let go from the company. Of course this wasn’t legal, however right before they started this process every employee had to sign a waiver form, that was pretty much a lot of legal gibberish, on the spot. I wanted to have a lawyer take a look at the form however I was told I had to sign it on the spot or I would be let go.
There was also a company intranet website which all employees where to check on a regular basis. This was Dov’s main line of communication to all staff. The site would have pictures of girls from the stores where he would rip them apart for having too thin eyebrows, for having “ugly make-up” or bad tattoos and piercings. They were basically publicly shamed for not looking the way he wanted to. He would also post memos saying things like “HIRE MORE ASIANS”
Most of the girls that I worked with were super young, I was the oldest in the store at 20. We even secretly employed one girl’s little sister who was only 13. A lot of the time when the guys from head office would come in they would take pictures of the girls in the store. Some of the girls wanted extra attention so they would pose pretty raunchy for them, mostly they just side boob and stuff but sometimes it got kind of weird. Also, every city with an American Apparel also has a company hotel room. Personally, I never went with them, but when the head office guys came to town they would take a few girls from the store with them for the night. I heard stories about tons of weird crap going on those nights and I know for a fact many of those girls were under 18."
"I worked at AA for a year and I can verify all of this. I was a merchandiser that was let go for not being up to physical standards (but the official reason was time and attendance, when I was pulling 12 hour days 4 times a week). They had an “auditor” from corporate come into town to “audit.” She had an hour long meeting with us telling us that we needed to dress sexier and wear more heels and tights (but if we had a run in our tights we could be fired/written up). Since I was a merchandiser, there was no way I was going to be wearing heels on 12-foot ladders, lugging around mannequins all day. They told me to dye my hair and get rid of my piercings, I said no, they let go of me a few days before Christmas."
"for speech class i found, interviewed, and presented a young lady that had been fired from american apparel while working under dov charney several years ago. she was fired for refusing oral sex with another woman in front of him.
she also claimed that people at her job were fired when they appeared to have gained weight.
similarly, photographer terry richardson (you may know him for his portraits of almost any celebrity you can name, like lady gaga, kanye west, the chili peppers). a model said during her shoot, he randomly whipped out his penis and started touching himself in front of her.
AA has been questioned for the ages of their models, many of which are nameless and go undisclosed. i was told that the process of selecting models for american apparel ads mainly consist of charney picking up women, bringing them home, and having them pose in garments while photographing them in his own home. there’s no proof for or against whether he asks for permission. fun stuff."

I was absolutely shocked when I read these paragraphs, and come to think of it, I'm not sure why. The brand has adverts of too-young girls spreading their legs in raunchy body suits, and sells an array of tightly-fitting, skimpy garments.

It almost seemed too bad to be true, and rumours like this spread easily on social-networking sites, so when I googled the topic to find out more, I was quite surprised to find out that every word is the truth. There are countless articles and blogs full of employee experiences and stories, and they only get more shocking. There is even an example of an email sent round by the head office explaining how the employees should look, and that they should be fired if they do not fit to this.

I find it hard to believe that the company are getting away with this, and while they promote the 'natural' look, being told to wear no make-up, have long, unstyled hair and be as thin as possible is just as discriminative and pressuring as is being told you have to wear make-up to be considered attractive, is it not?

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