Executive Briefings

The New American Apparel: Claims of 'Ethically Made' Abroad Clash With Reality

Under a page headlined "Sweatshop Free Stories" on American Apparel's website is a video profile of a young Honduran man, Heber Lopez, a garment worker at one of the factories in San Antonio, Honduras responsible for producing the retailer's clothing.

Lopez recounts his hardscrabble life story, the death of his mother when he was nine, a close brush with drug involvement after struggling to find work. “His options in life were limited,” reads the caption alongside the video — until he found a job at a factory owned by Gildan Activewear, a giant clothing manufacturer that acquired American Apparel for $88m earlier this year.

Once one of the largest apparel producers in the U.S., American Apparel has long been known for its “Made in USA” trademark, its sometimes controversial advertising aesthetic and its commitment to manufacturing clothes in sweatshop-free facilities. But after a string of scandals related to its founder and former chief executive Dov Charney, and years of financial troubles the brand was auctioned off to Gildan Activewear, an American Canadian manufacturer whose factories are located primarily in Central America and the Caribbean.

American Apparel then reopened as an online-only retailer, and by February, it swapped its “Made in USA” mantra with the phrase “Globally-Sourced,” as most of its apparel is now sourced from factories based in Central America, primarily in Honduras.

Still, American Apparel maintains all their products remain ethically made and sweatshop free, claiming its goal is to “give more ethical jobs to more people around the world” in the Sweatshop Free Stories section of its website. But while the story of Heber Lopez might seem uplifting, many claim that the reality for garment workers is far from the glossy facade it has projected since Gildan acquired the company nine months ago.

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Lopez recounts his hardscrabble life story, the death of his mother when he was nine, a close brush with drug involvement after struggling to find work. “His options in life were limited,” reads the caption alongside the video — until he found a job at a factory owned by Gildan Activewear, a giant clothing manufacturer that acquired American Apparel for $88m earlier this year.

Once one of the largest apparel producers in the U.S., American Apparel has long been known for its “Made in USA” trademark, its sometimes controversial advertising aesthetic and its commitment to manufacturing clothes in sweatshop-free facilities. But after a string of scandals related to its founder and former chief executive Dov Charney, and years of financial troubles the brand was auctioned off to Gildan Activewear, an American Canadian manufacturer whose factories are located primarily in Central America and the Caribbean.

American Apparel then reopened as an online-only retailer, and by February, it swapped its “Made in USA” mantra with the phrase “Globally-Sourced,” as most of its apparel is now sourced from factories based in Central America, primarily in Honduras.

Still, American Apparel maintains all their products remain ethically made and sweatshop free, claiming its goal is to “give more ethical jobs to more people around the world” in the Sweatshop Free Stories section of its website. But while the story of Heber Lopez might seem uplifting, many claim that the reality for garment workers is far from the glossy facade it has projected since Gildan acquired the company nine months ago.

Read Full Article