August 20, 2008

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

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.

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Lindsey Wolf  |  Contribution: 7,660