Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Monday, April 14, 2008 at 4:30 PM
Ad campaign, perhaps not China ready
At the end of last month, Shanghaiist reported that American Apparel are planning to open a store in China. The store has a cult following in the U.S. for a few reasons:
Firstly, all American Apparel clothing is manufactured in a downtown L.A. factory, which gives American consumers a nice karmic perk of knowing that their clothes are 'sweatshop free'. Although the company apparently pays good salaries, they do not allow their workers to unionize, but it seems the new left values of guilt avoidance politics ('sweatshop free') now trump the old left values symbolized by labor unions.
Another important part of American Apparel's image is the effect of their advertising campaigns which feature amateur models, often shot in grainy, home porno style.
Thirdly, the charismatic founder of the company, Dov Charney, has become a media figure in his own right because of his unconventional management style, the fact that he takes many of the photos used in American Apparel ads, and perhaps most notoriously because he repeatedly masturbated in front of a reporter for Jane magazine when she was interviewing him.
The clothes themselves are nothing remarkable: American Apparel is the clothing version of IKEA, a place where you can get a bunch of basic, fairly decent looking clothes. But there are no logos nor any flashy design features on the clothes.
American Apparel's China play will be interesting to watch. The announcement on their own web page says the following:
Aside from the fact that the company intends to sell U.S. made clothes and pay above market rates for labor, there is a further obstacle to their success: it is not clear whether Chinese consumers will pay much for clothes that have no obvious brand and therefore no obvious status marker.
Finally, those adverts: not so easy to get them approved in China's censorious media and advertising environment.
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