Made In: American Apparel Is Crowdsourcing Product Design

American Apparel has introduced a crowdsourcing design initiative that will financially save the brand, whilst keeping production in the US. The initiative promises to consolidate their anti-sweatshop manufacturing thesis and continue to improve brand reputation.

The initiative has been given the name ‘Made In,’ which is likely an overt reference to the brand’s focus on supporting American textiles manufacturing. Interested parties must be based in America, and produce accessories such as canvas, denim and leather accessories, paper-goods, bags, wallets, home-wares and jewellery.

The benefits are numerous for the small companies involved, with product being marketed and sold internationally by an established retailer. American Apparel will be completely supporting these small companies in their manufacturing, as well as financially. It has yet to be announced how large a cut American Apparel will be taking for themselves.

American Apparel Made In Campaign
American Apparel Made In Campaign

This news comes just weeks after reports that American Apparel will be laying-off hundreds of its manufacturing workers in California. The brand stated that their motivation for this downsizing is primarily the large amounts of product that have to be discounted every year.

This is not the only space where American Apparel has had to cut back either. Under Paula Schneider the brand has seen a long string of budgeting measures, “We have streamlined the number of items we display in each of our stores,” Schneider wrote in a letter to the LA Times. “Earlier this year, we closed a number of stores to focus on our best-selling locations.”

In the letter, Schneider also stressed that the brand would not be moving away from its primary ethical thesis, “if we do decide to produce some pieces out-of-house, they will still be American-made.” While this is a relief to the Californian textile industry, to call this move ethical would be hypocritical after seeing so many hard-working individuals out of work.

American Apparel - Made In Campaign
American Apparel – Made In Campaign

Also to take into account is the brand’s history of controversy, ranging from allegations of sexual assault from the founder of the brand Dov Charney, to its infamously suggestive and controversial marketing campaigns. In the two years that have proceeded the ousting of Dov Charney, the brand has been wracked by financial issues, only emerging from a period of bankruptcy earlier this year. This instability has evidently accumulated to a point where actions such as outsourcing have become necessary. For contributors this means ‘Made In’ may be a shaky investment.

The LA Times approached Dov Charney, who was readily available for comment; “They are doing exactly what American Apparel fought against.” Charney has outright criticised the brand for “outsourcing and searching for ways to pay people less money.” 

Photo: American Apparel SS16 via Dazed

The initiative has been well received, with multiple applications already being sent in for consideration. One such application is from Kate Thorson, the owner of Uma K, a jewellery line which is based in LA and looking for an expanded consumer base. Thorston told the Times that she aims to produce a series of brass rings for the retailer if she is taken up as a product source.

For a brand that markets itself exclusively off its ethical trade and the fair payment of its manufacturers, this is a risky and somewhat hypocritical move that definitely impacts manufacturers in California’s textile industry. However it still holds true that this initiative will provide massive support for a number of small businesses. FIB will be keeping its eye out for reactions as the brand proceeds with its plans.