How I Quit my Love Affair with American Apparel

By: Emily Yakashiro

I used to love, love, love American Apparel. Their clothes fit me really well, I loved the variety of colours available, and I liked that they were/are supposedly not made in sweatshops.

Most importantly to me, their clothing was a symbol of “big city life”. I was born and raised in a smaller city in the Fraser Valley, and in my last few years there before I moved to Vancouver for school, clothing with obvious logos and labels was the ultimate fashion statement. I hated it (still do), and I found it very tacky.  Relief from this came with my first few years of university (2007-2010ish). Seeing everyone on campus wearing those simple, colourful, logo-less hoodies was a vision of relatively accessible fashion that was as on trend as it was versatile.

But there was always this voice in the back of my mind telling me that I didn’t feel good about buying their products when their notoriously-sexist advertising was all over bus shelter posters, in the pages of my magazines, etc. My reasons for buying their products could not outweigh the compelling reason for me to stop supporting this particular clothing manufacturer. Especially being a feminist, I could not ignore their horrible practices any more, so a few years ago I called it quits. No more buying American Apparel.

A little while later, I stopped buying stuff from Urban Outfitters as well. Though they have awesome sales and lovely garments, their repeat offenses of cultural appropriation got to me.

Now, I don’t judge people for still wearing their stuff, I get it–the clothes from both chains are still great. For me, it’s like being a vegetarian–I’m one, but I don’t care if other people aren’t. Food is a very personal thing, and so is clothing. If people abstain from certain foods and clothes, it’s not really any of my business.

Boycotting these chains has worked for me, I’ve found out ways to survive (which I discuss below). It’s not without regret sometimes though-I really, really wanted American Apparel’s high-waisted colourful jeans when they first came out (still do to be honest), but ads like the one below keep me from walking through their doors:


So, without further ado, here’s a few things I keep in mind when considering boycotting a store.

1. The clothes I wear have a very specific message and intention. If something in my outfit recognizably says something that I don’t want it to, I’m not going to wear it.

2. Let’s get real–I am super, super privileged to live in Canada, and there are a million other stores I can support. Yes, finding peach-coloured high-waisted jeans has been a challenge, but there are worse things.

3. Not shopping at American Apparel and Urban Outfitters has forced me to check out other stores. When these stores were super popular in Vancouver in the time-frame I discussed above (2007-2010ish), bigger chains like H&M, the Joe Fresh flagship store, Anthropologie, Forever21, and Topshop didn’t exist, either. So, during that time (and still a good project to this day) I got better acquainted with independent stores and vintage shops in this city.

4. I’ve had a lot of luck finding American Apparel stuff I like at thrift stores. So yes, I’m still technically buying American Apparel products, but they don’t see a penny of it. I get an immense amount of satisfaction wearing one of my AA skater skirts that sells first-hand for $44 knowing I found it for $3 at a thrift store whose proceeds go to charity.

5.  It’s also good to know that “fashionable, sweatshop-free basics” are still within my grasp: if I really wanted to, I could sit down and learn to sew a basic t-shirt or dress myself. There are lots of sewing classes here in Vancouver, I could make it happen.

6. I’m sticking to my guns here, and I’m proud that I’m drawing a line somewhere saying that I’m #notbuyingit.



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One thought on “How I Quit my Love Affair with American Apparel

  1. I do wonder though if wearing American Apparel second hand is still sending a message of solidarity with the brand, if it is recognisably AA. I mean, a skater skirt could be from anywhere, but would you wear something with the American Apparel logo visible on it, even if you got it second hand?

    It’s one of the things I wonder about the one fur coat I have – I don’t agree with fur farming, but I got my coat second hand. So does wearing it send a message that I’m okay with fur farming because people don’t know from looking at it that it’s second hand, or is it more important that I didn’t pay for it directly?

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