American Apparel Now Selling…Dr. Bronner’s Soaps?

Via Lindsey Wolf
on Aug 19, 2008
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My thoughts of American Apparel are like a tennis match within my brain. I love them. I love them not. And back and forth it goes. They win points for being made in the U.S., using solar-powered vertical manufacturing, introducing an organic line, and for at a basic level, making clothes that I’d like to wear. They lose points most prominently for their advertising. Every time I’m walking down Houston and pass their Lower East Side store and see the billboard above, I get a bad feeling in my stomach. (See one of the most controversial images and the commotion it caused last year here).

A few days ago, at a slightly more visually appealing store in my neighborhood that was built in an old theater (another point won for interesting re-use of space), I was picking up my recent go-to item for a baby gift: an organic cotton one-sie. I passed by the vintage clothing additions just introduced in stores (yet another point) on my way to the register where I couldn’t believe my eyes. There sat a gleaming display of Dr. Bronner’s soaps. My initial reaction was that of joy. I am a big Bronner’s fan (their lavender hair crème is a recent favorite) and was happy that they’d be able to reach another customer base through these outlets.  The discovery even sparked a conversation with the cashier about the unregulated bodycare industry and the use of the fair trade label as well. (I’ve met Bronner’s talented video producer, check out more about their sourcing of organic and fair trade olive oil from the Middle East here).

Initial googling of the two companies revealed some confusion among customers regarding the merchandising mix and the Dr. Bronner’s products are also being sold on a bizarre section of the American Apparel site that I found that also sells…Sharpies? But I do hope that this is a successful venture for Dr. Bronner’s, and yet another major point for American Apparel for selling their products.

But in the end for me, a feeling outweighs thoughts. I tried to look for a quote that could further describe that feeling and perhaps this via Newsweek by Sara Sheridan-McAndrew captures a part of it:

“I find it quite ironic that a company that so heavily markets itself as being ‘socially responsible’ is quick to perpetuate the sexual subordination of young women—airbrushed or not. They are sending the message that social responsibility is about money alone—as long as you pay the women inside the factory a legal wage you’re absolved from exploiting them in other ways.”

Let the conversation continue regarding all of the aspects of being a responsible retailer.


About Lindsey Wolf


13 Responses to “American Apparel Now Selling…Dr. Bronner’s Soaps?”

  1. na says:

    i agree… i’ve always liked the comfy aa shirts, and was glad to see a national line introduce organic goodies. lately, a lot of my musician friends have switched all their merch to alternative apparel due to all the sexual references of american apparel. i’m not sure where alternative apparel is on the eco richter scale, but i believe it’s living wage built and made in the usa. you should see the dressing room walls lining some american apparel stores… pure french porn for all store-goers to see…

  2. Douglas says:

    dude. i love dr. bronner.

    couple things though:

    alternative apparel is definitely NOT made in the US. here’s a link.

    and what’s wrong with french porn? i was partially raised in europe, so maybe i don’t get it. but “exploitation” is such a strong word for showing women in sexy poses. i’ve seen the advertisements they put in gay magazines and those are even more risque. maybe we’re just too puritan-like with our sexual imagery out here. nobody cringes at high fashion stuff. too close to home for a major retailer, maybe.

  3. admin says:

    American Apparel is made in downtown LA. Alternative Apparel is a different company, and by the sounds of it not very ‘alternative’ to the conventional mainstream.

  4. John says:

    I think American Apparel’s advertising is sheer genius, sexy, and every time someone cries about it they get more press, more hits, more sales. Seriously, do you people bitchin’ even have sex? This is the 21st century, United States, and none of these women were forced, coerced, or threatened to do these ads, they JUMPED at the chance, and most likely they WENT AFTER IT, and more power to them. Give everyone some credit here. If anyone’s oppressing anyone it’s the people looking out for women’s rights, because they don’t give their sisters credit for having the intelligenceto make their own, informed choices. PS- if these ads succeeded in making 80’s, hipster-crap fashionable, and the guys like Dov Charney that actually dress like that, then they really *are* works of genius and perhaps we should recruit their purveyors for public service messages… *hot chick in leotards says smoking sucks*

  5. lindsey says:

    I wanted to post this link to lighten this debate up a bit:, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen from the Onion. Now that to me is sheer genius. I personally do not find anything innovative in the ads, but do see your point John that every time this comes up, it does give them more press, which I am not against! As you can see from what I wrote above, I support several of their initiatives. I am not a conservative person. I am just sick of living in a world where its women (and men, who are affected differently but I obviously can’t speak for!) are flooded with images of female beauty “ideals” constantly. And I understand that the women in those ads went for it, of course they did, they live in a world of tv, movies, ads, fashion magazines, etc. that has been telling them looking a certain way holds serious value. I don’t think it’s healthy for the girl in the ad, or looking at the ad, and something I hope we move away from. My intention here was to highlight a few of the many considerations a company takes in being socially responsible, and yes advertising to me is just as important in this as carrying an amazing product like Dr. Bronners.

  6. admin says:

    Most comments, like, ever! Another great post, Lindsey. You’re my hero. Move out to Boulder, elephant will treat you to yoga any time all the time.

  7. John says:

    Indeed, it is rough to live in a world where being judged by appearance and physical attributes seems to be the dominant way. We are programmed, as are many other animals, to seek mates based on physical appearance, and most animals have a pecking order, some displaying brutality that rivals our own.

    The only option I can see is to accept it, and if you want to change it then you must work within your own life to create relationships that aren’t based on outward appearance (and what does “appearance” really mean?) Rigorous self-examination is necessary- Can you really say you aren’t initially attracted to people based upon outward appearances? If so, can you say you choose a partner without heavily considering physical beauty, even if it is your definition of beauty? I can’t.

    As a male I have come to terms with this long ago. I weigh about 135, and you could have painted a bullseye on my head because believe me I have been a nonstop target of physically bigger guys my whole life. I have gotten my ass kicked for no good reason many times, and have been harassed in many other ways over the years. For me it’s just reality. It’s not some abstract thing, it’s real- some people will kill you for what you look like.

    Now with all that said, I’m a white male. I’ve been the target of racism, having been attacked my members of other races twice, both times I would call them definite hate crimes, one time they were out to kill me- kicked in the head so many times I couldn’t count. I can only imagine how some darker skinned people have been oppressed.

    So, it’s not about man/woman, black/white. What *is* it about? And what can we do?

    Thanks for opening an interesting dialog.


  8. […] written in the past about the things I love about American Apparel. Waylon has too, highlighting their fair labor […]

  9. […] have all been in line at a cafe/American Apparel/AmCo show and seen these AltPeople with their brightly colored tee shirt & glasses combo and […]

  10. […] labor, vertical integration, affordable, relatively green, thoroughly cool, elegant, progressive, out-of-the-box thinkers. They don’t do sweatshops. They’re outspoken advocates of gay […]

  11. […] …is one of elephant’s favorite companies. Why? They’ve proven to the business world that one can be hugely profitable while being Made in the USA (unlike most of our other favorite companies), offering creat cuts and classic styles in sometimes-organic cotton, offering free ESL classes to their fair-wage-paid workers, running their downtown LA factory in a green manner, offering some non-toxic, affordable options, promoting gay equality (which too few companies do so publicly), featuring un-made up models, and running their stores in an out-of-the-box manner. […]

  12. Very good to see somebody showing the essentials.You Set up a solid base!