American Apparel is all but dead. The 27-year-old company has been on life support for the last few years, and this week Canadian retailer Gildan bought it for $88 million. Now, all 110 of American Apparel's remaining stores will likely shutter after 100 days—it also appears Gildan will close the company's factories and headquarters in Los Angeles, costing about 3,500 people their jobs.
None of this is a surprise at this point, considering American Apparel has filed for bankruptcy twice and went through a very public divorce with founder Dov Charney. If you aren't employed by the company, its demise probably won't affect you that much.
Still, for me, the death of American Apparel feels a bit personal. I worked as a salesperson, and then a floor manager, for a couple years after graduating from college, and for at least six months of that time it was the best job I've ever had. My wages primarily consisted of free clothing and I woke up nightly panicking over money, but I still got paid to wear cute clothes, flirt with my cute male coworkers and listen to music all day which, at 22, was all I really wanted to do anyway. Some of the friends I made while working there are still employed by the company. They'll all be out of jobs soon.
I'll miss American Apparel's manufacturing ethos. Factory workers were paid fair wages and had full healthcare and benefits. You spent a little more on cotton T-shirts than you might elsewhere, but you knew your clothes weren't made by exploited children halfway around the world, which is rare for affordable retail in this fast fashion-dominated world. And while the company was often criticized for touting small sizes, I am five feet tall, and it is one of the few retailers that makes clothes that fit me.
Goodbye, American Apparel. I'll look for your wholesale T-shirts in Target's discount bin.