Sylvia Safdie, Visual Artist, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Feb 01 2015
When I think about American Apparel I think of dyers, sewers, cutters, machine operators, supervisors, designers, design assistants, pattern makers, office managers, store managers, marketing directors, retail strategists, sales people, visual managers, window designers, cleaners, computer specialists, graphic department, models, photographers, advertising department, leather department, shoe department, shoe makers, leather department, handbag department, children department, hosiery department, wholesale department, retail department, retail distributors, accountants… American Apparel is a result of teams and people who have a common vision working together. It’s a result of people being encouraged to express themselves and work to their full potentials. Sometimes, they do not agree with each other and they argue, sometimes they inspire each other – what they have in common is that they all have a huge commitment to the vision of the company.
To create a company that produces its merchandise in America which is sweatshop free and vertically integrated at a time when companies cut corners and send their merchandise to third world countries to be produced often with inhuman appalling conditions and child labor is a tremendous accomplishment. It’s a landmark in the garment manufacturing in the United States. American Apparel has gone through struggles. The 2008 recession, immigration crises, distribution crises and the reality of the garment industry which is extremely competitive has been some of its challenges. What company does not go through its struggles and challenges?
As a visual artist who has taught for many years I am aware of the creative process. American Apparel has given its workers the opportunity and possibility of learning and growth in a creative environment. Many works have started at the bottom and have grown and developed with the company contributing to its creative potential. Other workers move on to other opportunities where what they learned in American Apparel plays a role in their new positions. Many of the workers at the stores are students who are able to work and get experience while they study. American Apparel is a dynamic creative company – what we need for a healthy work force and a healthy community.
The vision behind the company and its founder is Dov Charney. He is my son. Obviously my point of view will be viewed as prejudice. I am therefore speaking right now for the workers who depend on Dov for leadership. The company under the new management is in jeopardy. If Dov is not reinstated into the company I am certain that American apparel will not survive and that all those people who have worked so hard to make it what it is will lose their dreams. American Apparel is a model of the possibility of manufacturing in the United State in sweatshop free conditions – it needs to be saved.