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February 2003
American Apparel: Stellar Wholesaler



American Apparel

Probably the best-known producer of wholesale sweatshop-free cotton clothes, American Apparel makes it easy for designers: with no worries about how the Tees they use are made, there’s more time to focus on designs and marketing.

The cotton is exceptionally soft and of high quality; the fabric is tightly-knit and durable, with a smooth feel. American Apparel clothing is designed to actually fit—with lines for men/unisex, women and kids—and comes in all colors, sizes and styles. They have classic tank tops for men and women (as well as spaghetti-straps for the girls). Traditional sleeveless Tees also come in jazzed-up varieties: slim-fitted v-necks and ribbed racer-backs. Of course there is the classic wife-beater for men. For the ladies: soft, elegant hoodies and fitted fleecey ones for guys. And…the classic crew-neck Tee. T-shirt designs include women’s baby-doll Tees with raglan capped sleeves or ringed cuffs; scoop-necked cropped tops; long v-necks; baseball-styles…you name it. Most Tees and tanks go for $16. (They also make undies, shorts, sweat pants and lots more.)

And: “Because dogs are people too,” their blurb explains, “American Apparel introduces the Dog T.” In heather or black ribbed cotton; sizes small to X-large ($14).

American Apparel’s clothes are produced in their Los Angeles facility where factory conditions can be monitored and they can guarantee their fair labor policy. Theirs is now the largest garment factory in the U.S., with the capacity to produce over 100,000 T-shirts a day. According to company literature, American Apparel garment workers receive living wages as well as health and dental benefits, which are available for children too. Heating, proper ventilation and natural light are provided. They also have two full-time, certified massage therapists who work exclusively with garment workers.

The cotton isn’t organic—yet. American Apparel hopes to become large enough so that they can control the pesticides used—“if any”—in the farming process. They are exploring other eco-friendly practices as well. Last year they contracted a company to recycle all of their cutting and fiber scraps—that’s about 30,000 pounds a week of cotton leftovers that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. They’re looking into alternative fibers that are more environmentally-friendly than cotton; and there’s also talk of switching to solar power.

Lots of cool designers use American Apparel shirts, including two featured in this issue: BeaverPower and Herbivore. American Apparel clothes are available in retail as well as wholesale. To check out their catalog and/or buy directly, visit their online store at or call (213) 488-0226. —C.C.


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