A Day at American Apparel

By: Eric Sanchez |Asst. News Editor|

Chances are you’ve either shopped at American Apparel, or seen one of their racy ads around town (and around the Internet) before. American Apparel took hipsterdom by storm a couple of years ago by offering very basic garments and branding them with an L.A coolness and coupling that with socially progressive stances on issues such as immigration reform and same-sex marriage rights. One of their biggest claims to fame, though, has been the fact that every single garment and accessory they sell in their more than 285 stores worldwide is made here in the U.S.A.

All the while the company still pays their factory workers with fair wages and offers them many benefits. This noble gesture does not go without relatively high pricing for really basic things, but alas, people still pay up. Once a year though, residents of Southern California get the chance to flock to the L.A-based factory and search for deals on a lot of these same items.

After a one year hiatus, the company’s Factory Flea Market was once again held at their downtown headquarters this past weekend.  Last year the same concept of a factory-clearance sale was taken on the road and visited certain stores and locations with big bargains, Cal Poly Pomona included- the years before that it was held at the L.A factory on Fourth of July weekends.

On the news of its return, my cousins Michelle and Valerie and I wanted to pay a visit to see what we could find, plus there were to be DJ’s constantly on rotation, and a pair of food trucks, and that’s another thing we’ve been into lately (I’m a closeted foodie).

Valerie told me on the way over there that she had heard rumors that AA was having this sale because they are going bankrupt. I was sort of surprised, but not really, if you’ve ever been to one of their stores, you know business is pretty slow. Whether or not this is true, I was thankful I didn’t actually put my money into it during my short stint as a stock trader. (Here’s their stock quote in case you’re curious about how they’re doing APP.)

When we got off of the freeway we didn’t have too much trouble finding the place since I had been there before, plus they had a huge “Legalize L.A” banner on one of their buildings.

Parking was free and when we found a spot we got in and bypassed the blacktop in front of that same building, where the clothes had been placed there in big boxes for people to rummage through in the past, and entered in where it seemed the workers enter. (There’s also an outlet Community Store that you can enter from the outside of the building.)

Inside the bulk of the second story had been cleared out to make room for rack after rack after rack of garments. Male/unisex clothes were on the left and female clothes on the right. There were plenty of what seemed like regular factory workers that were out on the sales floor ready to help guests, and the DJ from VIVA Radio was in the center facing us. Naturally my cousins and I split up and I wandered over to check out the outerwear.

It was there that I found out that, at least for American Apparel jackets, I wear an XM, AKA extra medium. Some might think that extra medium is only a joke from Friday After Next, but it’s my very real reality, I live with it every day. (Details on how to support the Americans for Extra Medium Awareness and Research Foundation later…)

I then took myself looking through just the basic shirts and whatnot and found some things that I liked. There were no fitting rooms but that didn’t stop some people from trying on things out in the open, everything was final sale so I could see why they did so. Luckily for me I am part of the majority population when it comes to t-shirt size and I was able to shop knowing all of my things would fit.

It was pretty exciting because I was surrounded by clothes whose price tag you’d usually would rather not look at, but over just about every rack there was a fair number. It also didn’t appear that they were holding too many things back, there were no obviously regrettably-designed garments, and to my surprise there were still a few “average” sizes left of most things.

This perhaps was the benefit of the clothes being sold at the factory in which they were made, I didn’t see it done but AA did mention in their advertisements that they would be replenishing the sales floor regularly throughout the 11-day event. However, once again I was painfully reminded of this nation’s struggle with size inequality when I couldn’t find an XXL shirt for my dog… I don’t want to talk about it.

After about an hour of shopping I had gone around the entire men’s/unisex section a couple of times, so I found my cousins and they too were just about ready to check out. To get to the checkout we had to take the factory’s industrial-style elevator which had a dedicated operator, it sort of felt like when the door reopened we were either going to find ourselves at a real cool New York flat, or overlooking all of Disney’s California Adventure.

Waiting outside the exit was the Nom Nom truck which serves Vietnamese fusion food. I had a grilled pork sandwich with mayo, cucumbers, jalepeños, cilantro and a sort of carrot slaw, the combination might not sound too appealing but trust me, everything was fresh and on the crunchy baguette with sweet and spicy sauce, it was a new yet familiar flavor experience that I loved.

I also got a lemon pepper chicken taco, which I of course put Tapatio on, and again it was something that I already loved, tacos, mixed in a way that would make Adam Richman do that thing when he tries to describe every little detail, when all he really wants to do is finish it. I actually think I beat my best time, I was done with that taco so fast that I literally forgot about it a second later. But I do know that it was delicious.

Food aside, I ended up getting a pretty good deal compared to buying the same or similar items at an AA retail store.

Here’s a list of what I bought:

A mélange blue cardigan: $20
1 grey l/s t-shirt $ 10
1 dark green button-down vest: $10
1 grey and blue striped v-neck: $10

Who knows when I’ll actually be able to wear these things with this weather in California, I might just have to pay a visit to my family in the Pacific Northwest!

(I also got a vinyl record of Sebastien Tellier’s Sexuality, I know it’s pretty old but it was $2! Plus it was in a maze of accessories that everyone had to pass through to check out, real clever American Apparel….)

Check out next week when us three get our food comas on at the Santa Anita Food Truck Festival this weekend. (see you there?)

 – Eric Sanchez

*All photos taken by Michelle Cortez :)

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