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American Apparel: Now Hiring

The sign of the hipster apocalypse is spelled out in Helvetica. Black and white. “Now Hiring.”
Yes. American Apparel is “Now Hiring.”
If this means nothing to you, you’re either far behind or just ahead.
Because it means that, soon enough, American Apparel will mean nothing at all.

What the Los Angeles-based company sells is more complicated than anything it makes. (By and large, its wares are still limited to very stretchy basics, though they’re now available in a perplexing array of colours and metallics inspired by the Euro-Disco era). It sells so-called “socially conscious” clothing to people for whom social consciousness involves being acutely aware of where, in any given room, the most important party blog photog is working. (FYI, what “socially conscious” actually means is this: the company doesn’t exploit children in underdeveloped countries, but rather employee-models with child-like faces and overdeveloped bodies.)
American Apparel sells cool to people who are too cool for cool.
Or rather, it used to.
It was around this time last year that Dov Charney, the alt-Hugh Hefner turned rebel sell-out, took his 10-year-old company public. The days of faux exclusivity (remember when the managers only hired their friends, and everyone did more drugs than work?) went from being “so over” to officially so. We all knew that already. And yet. This public? Like, you can work here too public? And yes, even you with the love handles and the Kirsten Dunst-in-Elizabethtown knit hat public?
Then again, the sign appeared to us mere hours after we’d been at 69 Vintage, where the owner hastily shoved copies of Vice Magazine into our hands. “Take these,” she implored. “We have way too many. We can’t give all these away.”
This particular edition of Vice was prettily packaged with an Aritiza tie-in, a mini-mag of Secrets and Lies, an alterna-catalogue, really, made by a company brave enough to advertise that what they’re not advertising is clothes. Instead of supermodels, there were scene stars: among them, at least three current or former employees of the American empire.
Little here is left to commentary.
After scanning for more signs (Starbucks to release a special edition Steve Aoki mix; neighbouring Urban Outfitters to be managed by Richard Lambert), we immediately texted the last-known cool girl to work at the Queen Street locay.
She LOL’d, predictably, in response: “Who knew? Maybe the demise of AA is closer than I thought.”
In the hipster hegemony, so uselessly defined by anti-establishmentarianism, an empire falls merely by becoming one. If you’re still looking, you can now find American Apparel in any university town across the country. Wander inside and wonder what’s so special. Increasingly scarce are the so-called party kids, now replaced by actual kids: twelve and thirteen years old, escaped from Eaton’s or en route to supply live applause for MuchOnDemand. Ever-present, too, are dudes old enough to be their dads, yet still decades from growing up, preferring instead to remain in Converse and on contract at the CBC. Yuppie couples, five liberal arts degrees between them, attempt recession math: to split wardrobe costs, buy three-packs of unisex t-shirts.
If you’re thinking, wait, aren’t these the people who shop at The Gap?, we have one word for you: congratulations.
Dov’s American empire has long sustained itself on the promise of masstige in a society where the currency is cachet. But will the masses still care to be part of a club that will have them as discount card-carrying members? Find out every Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., at an open call near you.
Photo by Sarah Nicole Prickett.


  • matty

    This may be the stupidest diatribe I have ever read on any ist bar none.

  • akl

    What exactly is this post about?

  • Astin

    I agree with matty and akl.
    Guess I’m “far behind”.

  • ked

    This post is a load of twaddle.

  • Cobalt

    However it was amusing to look to the left of the article and read “we’re hiring” in the Torontoist ad space.

  • ked

    Just tried to read it again.
    The article is
    1, largely unreadable
    2, nonsense – They’ve been hiring “the public” for years now. A friend applied for a job there 3 years ago.
    Twaddle and drivel.

  • _anne_

    this post is a complete waste of space. and on the internet, that’s saying something…

  • matt1256

    The fall of American Apparel has been followed pretty well by and The Consumerist. Sure, it’s most about Charney’s shitshow sex romps, but there was a decent explanation about how the company was saved from near destruction when it went public.
    It’s not a surprise that American Apparel is feeling the heat now anyways because hipster is the latest brand of haterade since hating on emo kids hasn’t been funny for awhile. SFist has you covered for all your hate needs.
    Above all it seems like the article is telling all the hipsters to “protect your cool” and stay away from AA. It’s been LOL’d by the last-known cool girl to work there.

  • ked

    Gap kids buying their cotton in AA is a thing to be applauded isn’t it? Fair Trade and North American produced so less of a carbon footprint?
    sorry – it took another attempt at reading this piece to grasp what the point of it might be.

  • deadrobot

    Wow. I hate American Apparel, but Sarah *HATES* American Apparel.
    I liked the article. It was written in a hipster, cooler-than-thou cadence that made you need to read it. Bravo. Content, though, didn’t interest me (see above).
    Tim Mccreedy needs to take it down a notch.

  • nippleholic

    I thought all the cool kids shopped at Zellers now?

  • friend68

    Where are we supposed to believe they hired their staff from when they were still cool?

  • matty

    maybe this article is being ironic and is laughing at your for falling for it.
    ironic irony 2.0

  • escape

    I think Dov just went to malls with HR people, pointed out hotties, and instructed the HR person to hire them.

  • matt1256

    firend68: This story outlines where they got their staff when they were still cool.
    Living wages for the factory workers is a solid policy. The rest of AA’s stuff is pretty questionable. That being said, my favourite tee of all time came from Granville Island Brewery and was printed on an AA shirt.

  • escape

    I meant to link to this article.

  • spacejack

    Umm, not a bad comment count!
    Sometimes I like to say positive things.

  • Phill MV

    Talk about hipster navel gazing ;0

  • Vincent Clement

    The Consumerist? Please, just another rag complaining about this and that.

  • Sarah Nicole Prickett

    i actually don’t hate american apparel so much as i just don’t care. well, i cared enough to write about this, because i DO think it’s kind of funny that american apparel has so rapidly burned through it’s waitlist of wannabe workers–and wannabe whatevers. fill in the blank yourself, as i’m all done being bitchy for the day.
    i’m also not telling anyone not to shop there. i think it’s finally safe to do so. i mean, i LIKE that shopping at american apparel is basically the same as shopping at the gap. i’m from southwestern ontario. i can’t help it.
    phillip, your comment is funny to me because i almost put in a sentence about navel-gazing (nay, gaping) but was out of time.
    whoever linked to sunday styles: thanks! genuinely.
    p.s. i believe (or want to believe, at least) that vice still has good writers, but it’s sort of hard when their local employees write what should be rebuttals in all of two four-letter words. um. really?

  • David Topping

    I’ve unpublished one comment on this thread and banned the commenter (who, for what it’s worth, was posting with an e-mail address).

  • Sarah Nicole Prickett

    *its waitlist

  • jennyfish

    The sign of the hipster apocalypse is spelled out in Helvetica…
    Hahaha…this is such a great opening line!

  • matty

    “i actually don’t hate american apparel so much as i just don’t care. well, i cared enough to write about this, because i DO think it’s kind of funny that american apparel has so rapidly burned through it’s waitlist of wannabe workers–and wannabe whatevers. fill in the blank yourself, as i’m all done being bitchy for the day.”
    They’re hiring everywhere.
    Yes they might have lost their hipster cache but wasn’t the gap also once a “hip” store?
    I dunno. In other news my mom shops at urban outfitters. Who cares?
    Btw, urban outfittters supplies wholesale tee-shirts to myriad businesses. They aren’t only defined by their branding.
    hm…i guess this wasn’t as stupid an article as i thought. I mean it is, but here i am talking about it.

  • matty

    “Btw, urban outfittters supplies wholesale tee-shirts to myriad businesses. They aren’t only defined by their branding. ”
    I meant AA

  • matty

    and darrnit david, why even bother censoring? It’s more fun when i can read rants from other people even more cynical than myself.

  • ked

    “i DO think it’s kind of funny that american apparel has so rapidly burned through it’s waitlist of wannabe workers–and wannabe whatevers”
    It did that 3 years ago if your only gauge is a hiring sign.

  • rek

    Wait… I GET IT! This is what Torontoist would look like if Carraway got her way, right?

  • rek
  • isthisforreal

    And now the demise of The Torontoist.
    Any credibility it somewhat had is now completely lost in trusting a *this* to express her opinion, if you can even justify that as an opinion.
    When are these dirty scenesters going to wake up and realize that “cool” people don’t actually think or know they’re cool?
    Puke city.

  • x_the_x

    AA might be dying (although I don’t think looking for employees provides enough evidence, and may even supply evidence to the contrary), but its fuel (credulous hipsters) and business model (duping same) have been absorbed by any number of businesses touting ethical/organic/local/non-corporate (really, all these deserve quotation marks) alternatives to “mainstream” consumptive patterns.

  • kevinruairi

    This article is shit.
    Last time I checked, AA were selling clothing manufactured in Los Angeles and not some fascist sweatshop in a China free trade zone like the rest of the crap we wear. Why do they come in for such stick, exactly? Because they’ve become popular?
    This article says nothing of consequence.
    They need employees to sell the stuff? Oh, I get it, they’re not small any more, therefore they’re not cool.
    Get fucked.
    TOist, do you publish anything?

  • kevinruairi

    Oh, look at this:
    Those corporate fascists! Arguing for immigration reform! They aint cool! Shop at Zellers instead!

  • badalie

    i’m not understanding all the hating on this post. i think the point of this article is about how previously “underground” or “hipster” culture is now being mass marketed to the mainstream. dov charney distinguished american apparel from all other cotton teeshirt retailers by selling his “cooler than thou” image along with it. toist is pointing out that by hiring 16 year old kids from waterloo, the edginess american apparel once purported has now become no more than a marketing gimmick.
    isthisforreal: umm, are you for real? do you think that your opinion is of more value that “a *this*” (whatever the hell that means) because you “don’t actually think or know [that you're] cool?”

  • badalie

    kevinruairi: wow. “get fucked”. you really are far more eloquent than this toist writer. do you publish anything? cos the only thing i’ve read from you is no more profound than what is written on a bathroom stall.

  • matt1256

    See, the problem with the poster’s bitchfest is that she thinks it is wrong for people to want to be cool. Everyone wants to be cool. Those that are “anti-cool” just want to start a revolution where their style is now the edgy, rebellious thing to do. The cool thing to do. Only to a point though, because when it starts to lose its cred, everyone who tries to enter becomes a poseur. She can’t be “hipper-than-thou” because everyone is just as hip.
    Me? I’m totally safe. Plaid is always stylish in the middle of nowhere. Besides, my Mom thinks I’m cool.

  • x_the_x

    re: “:has now become no more than a marketing gimmick”
    It always was a marketing gimmick. It doesn’t only become a marketing gimmick once you have figured it out.

  • rek

    This post has really brought out all the hipsters.

  • burnstoemerge

    I thought that by having stores (and a chain of stores at that) and huge ad space near Yonge & Dundas and full-page ads in any and every publication would have indicated the corporatization or coolness death of AA for a long time now.
    I’ve honestly only entered an AA store maybe once, but I ordered a T-shirt recently that will be printed on an AA shirt. Maybe I’ll be converted once it arrives. Because the ultracoolhipsters haven’t convinced me yet.
    Sarah, which side of the McClung’s debate regarding AA were you on last year? I can’t remember.

  • ked

    @ badalie
    It is just a horrendously written article which begins with a premise that just isn’t true (Only NOW are AA advertising for employees) and goes down a dawdling path of smug to reach a rather dull and meaningless conclusion.

  • matt1256

    Say what you want about AA, but they make damned comfortable tee shirts. I’m kind of disappointed with the quality of my hoodie though.

  • Vaneska

    I don’t understand why this post is so hard to understand?
    Manufacturing ethics aside, AA was once seen as cool by Toronto hipsters, back when they were hiring only by word-of-mouth or when they were scouting prospective employees at OCAD (yes, they did that).
    AA employees were told to turn a blind eye to shoplifting if it was done by a cool kid, because that’s who they wanted to wear the clothes anyway.
    AA was still cool back when “cultured” yuppies were still shopping at The Gap for “Williamsburg” jeans (yes, those did exist), and suburban university students were still wearing Juicy sweatpants and Uggs.
    But as with most subculture cool things, the yuppies and the uni students caught on and wanted a deep V from AA too. And as the “original” hipsters lost exclusivity to their fave brand, they moved on to the next cool thing (ooo…what could it be?).
    Hence, SNP’s remark about AA “for hire” sign.

  • ambrose

    too much hipster in one post

  • chenyip

    Vaneska: Its hard to understand because its terribly written. This post is basically an American Apparel tshirt: Poor quality and completely over-hyped.

  • rocketeer

    Now now, there’s no reason to knock their t-shirts. They’re leaps and bounds above Fruit of the Loom, Gildan et al in terms of quality and comfort.

  • rowrasaur

    Crap, how am I ever going assert my individuality through commercial goods if all these places keep pandering to the mainstream?
    Surely Torontoist will be the next to sell out, bending to the will of the masses and not allowing articles like this which only the coolest of people will care about. And by ‘care about’ I mean shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes at.

  • bluppytiyit

    I helped open that toronto store, and worked there for about a year. The first run of employees were some of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met in my life. This was due large in part to a hiring manager with a great eye for non-douchebags. Immediately after hiring us all, he was fired. Then someone from LA came in. My first job there was to work with her in picking out the first line of sales people based on photographs that they took with the interview. From the very start there was a completely fucked up hiring policy… the word-of-mouth hiring went on in the first couple years because there was (and still is?) no Human Resources department in the Montreal headquarters. That kind of brings in the real deal about AA…
    The first stores in Toronto were opened purely for branding purposes. I had played invisible ear to enough conversations between Dov and the Canadian head of AA to know that there was never any intention initially to make money on the retail side. The spots that they picked (College, Queen, and Church) were to boost awareness of the brand, but done so in the “coolest” way possible. Of course since there was no actual business plan in the start, stores quickly ran AA into the ground with mismanaged stock, backwards hiring policy, and above all, horribly, outlandishly incompetent head office.
    To Dov’s credit, the location positioning thing probably did help the situation a lot once hipsters started riding hard for it.
    But after a couple years of paying the cost to be cool, dude realised you can’t rely on hipster locations to make money. Bloor and Yonge stores open. Church closes. Stores pop up in malls, windsor, the fringes, etc.
    Market saturation requires a lot more management though… so what follows is different hiring policy, operating, etc. blablabla. an overall change in the corporate culture.
    really though the point I wanted to make is why would AA give a fuck about cool/hipster culture at this point in game? Its about 2 years beyond that point. The day AA opened in yorkville was the day cool became a moot point. AA will continue to make a killing selling to moms and kids. and The kids who work there now are young enough to actually think its some valid cultural thing to take seriously.
    AA is not sweating anything until Uniqlo blows up…

  • cmia

    If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s there to hear it…blah blah blah.
    If Sarah writes a blog post, and no one’s there to read it, would anyone comment viciously, unintelligently and embarrassingly? Pardon the cliché, though it’s perfectly applicable here. Call SNP what you will, but you freely opt to consume her writing (for some, regularly), and by that accord, you’re essentially an abettor in something that you’ve chosen to deem a misdemeanour of mindful expression.
    You keep reading, so Torontoist keeps her writing. It’s simple, really.
    You don’t like it? Don’t read it. And if you must read it, comment nicely.
    If Dave Topping wants to hire you to rant on the counter-anti-counter-culture and its shortcomings, then he will. But until that day, you’re just a teeny panda bear icon in the comment section of a decent blog.
    And, if by leaving crass comments in the space provided you feel that you’re getting any acquiescence from the bulk of the readers, know that the majority of the readership subscribes to this site for the content, and not to verbally defecate on someone else’s hard work.
    If you need a place to put your displaced aggression and self-dissatisfaction, get a gym membership – not a ‘username’.

  • matty

    hey chimia were you a brownoser in school cause I can see from here your nose ain’t clean.

  • joeclark

    Two words: Incomprehensible.

  • Jackie Linton

    Don’t know about the signs you were reading, but my retail sources tell me that Urban Outfitters will not be managed by Richard Lambert.

  • rowrasaur

    I agree with cmia, if you don’t like something, don’t read it. Of course, if you find that it’s difficult to determine an article is devoid of useful insight BEFORE you read it, at least have the courtesy of realizing you are merely a reader of this site not a REAL contributor.
    Shouldn’t hard work and syllables be enough to meet everyone’s unwavering approval?

  • keesh

    Thats it I am going down there to apply right now!

  • Roberto Lima

    Unfortunately, “hard work and syllables” is not enough to meet everyone’s unwavering approval. If that were the case we’d all be paid staff writers at fancy blogs, and drowning in the collective pool of shitty stories.
    Feedback sections like this one give the writer an important measure of how effective they were at doing their job, which in part involves educating the reader. It can help some writers become better writers, though I’m sure most don’t take the “twaddle” here too seriously.
    Sarah’s piece, though well written, was dense – and in an era where your average internet roamer spends no more than a few minutes on any given page (don’t cite me on that one), trying to make sense of a package as tightly condensed as the one she put together is a task most of us just don’t have the attention span for.
    So she’s no Hemingway. Her style is choked with cultural references a lot of us didn’t get, which makes it frustrating for those looking for a quick fix of the usual happy crappy found all over the net. That doesn’t mean she’s a bad writer, though I’m sure some would appreciate a little simplification here and there; the problem is that many parts of the internet right now just aren’t friendly to more complicated prose, and writers who don’t realize this (or, I suspect in this case, ignore it) should expect to be heavily criticized.

  • chardy

    I haven’t been too positive about this writer’s other posts, but this one is well-written and funny. Perhaps a link to Torontoist’s interview with Andrew Potter is in order, though.

  • matty

    Yes roberto we are far too socially removed and poorly educated to get the highly nuanced subtext of what this girl is trying to say.
    If only we could “get it” like you do then we’d totally know that AA is, like, soooo over.

  • RyTron

    I look forward to Prick’s next article, following the next “Torontoist is hiring” post.

  • paigesix

    to echo what Roberto Lima commented–you’re all up in arms because, to use a cliched phrase: you just don’t get it. It’s extremely well-written, but I can see how that could come across as “incomprehensible” if you’re not running in the same circle or willing to do a bit of intellectual legwork in the form of background reading/looking up key cultural references.
    All good writing should make you work for it. If you’re looking for easy, don’t read SNP. (Go read Zucket! She’s easy-on-the-brain AND works for AA! Kill two birds with one stone!) Or stay here–there’s plenty other people posting simple crap on Torontoist to entertain your lazy minds. However, more often than not they write boring pieces, and you lurkers can really only be motivated to comment on the writing skills of authors of actually interesting posts.
    (And to the comment by foolish Jackie Linton: Of course he’s not! Your assignment? Please google “facetious”.)

  • torontothegreat

    whoa, what the hell? finally a funny, intelligent commentary on something users on this site love to talk/complain about (hipster-ism) and you rag on the writer?
    if you actually took the time to complain about the ‘complicated prose’ of the article? remember something:
    “It is better to light a single candle then to curse the darkness”
    i look forward to SNP’s articles on this site, which IMHO are too few and far between.

  • Gauldar

    This article says everything, and it says nothing. I would like to know two things:
    a) Why is everyone angry?
    b) When will the public flogging begin?

  • rek

    People are angry for one of two reasons:
    1) the article is ridiculous
    2) the complainers are hipsters

  • friend68

    3) we were bored.

  • NiAM

    Why do I have a feeling some of these naysayers and complainers may have applied/planned to apply to AA and were met with a contextually relevant post that scared them away with their freshly printed resumes and headshots still in hand?

  • andrew

    I understood what Prickett was writing at first go. I usually loathe pieces this dense, but the CBC contract dads in converse is too damn true [and close to home...must update footwear] and funny. It provides the entire article with the appropriate level of blithe snark, and shows us Ms. Prickett knows both whom she writes for and about.
    Perhaps this is in the spirit of what Kate Carraway was writing about. Maybe not. I was amused nonetheless. Good work, Toist and SNP.

  • Sarah Nicole Prickett

    my defenders are always late, but that’s because they’re fashionable. (even in converse, yes?)

  • Lands Down

    this is why we can’t have a toronto-gawker, people.

  • andrew

    er, why not?
    i needed new shoes anyways. something in brown, perhaps.

  • fromparadise

    Like them or not, they are coming here.
    Talk about paved paradise, put up a parking lot.

  • Robin Hatch

    My problem with people who seem to boycott American Apparel is that they’ve failed to recognize that the majority of the population, the people who shop at malls, still think it is really cool. Most people, generally (people who aren’t reading this article, I guess), buy clothes that are comfortable, and they’re not even thinking about the message they’re making doing it, it’s just because that’s what all their friends are wearing. They don’t even consider the word “hipster”. It seems to me the only people who claim American Apparel is no longer cool are still trying to achieve the same look, just elsewhere. It’s the same people who are embarassed to have others know they shop at Urban Outfitters, but will occasionally do it anyway.
    The only time American Apparel has ever wronged me is when I went in for an interview two years ago. My interview went something like this:
    Q: “So what’s your favourite colour?”
    A: “Wait… really? Are you serious?”
    Q: “Yeah.”
    A: “Uhh, green, I guess.”
    Q: “Hmm. Okay, but yeah, like, what shade of green?”
    A: “Is this part of the interview?”
    Q: “Yes.”
    I didn’t get the job.
    American Apparel hasn’t run its course with Toronto hipsters. It’s run its course with the people who will whisper in scorn to their friends, “Can you believe X is wearing Z item of clothing from American Apparel?” when they themselves are wearing American Apparel (so then, it hasn’t really run its course). I’m sorry, if someone looks like they’re wearing American Apparel, but it turns out they bought what they’re wearing at a vintage store, and they’d probably shit their pants with glee if they saw a photo of themselves in the “Dos” section of Vice magazine even though it is soooo done by now, then I don’t see the big fdifference.
    Maybe American Apparel is simply taking an actual business initiative that will get its employees to provide REAL customer service to make even bigger sales, instead of emaciated prepubescent girls who look at me like I don’t belong there when I walk in and roll their eyes when I ask for a changeroom. And that’s why I do my shopping online, because I don’t want to go to a place where they hire employees based on favourite colour and willingness to fuck Dov Charney. But I’m still going to buy the clothes, because why should it matter what store you shop at?

  • laurakathleen

    This is just silly.
    Also: I used to work at American Apparel and they have always put up Now Hiring signs.
    Everyone hates American Apparel, I think it’s time to move on!

  • The foOl

    The problem with this article is that it’s unparsable. Lots of pretty words strung into phrases that the author probably likes because they convey a mild wit and attitude; problem is they are a total FAIL because they do nothing to help make her point, if there is one.
    What is this? A perception v. reality piece on American Apparel? Yes? No?
    Who the fuck can tell.
    To the author: go read Orwell’s Politics and The English Language. Here, I’m so nice I’ll even link to it:
    Get over yourself. Saying a lot of fancy *nothing* is always going to produce a shittier result than saying something important plainly.

  • http://undefined teeth

    I got scouted a couple of weeks ago
    I got the job
    They called me in for training at the dundas location
    I gave them my SIN no., direct deposit form and all that jazz
    They said they were going to call me the next day for the next time i’ll work
    They didn’t call me
    I lost the job
    Great Company

  • http://undefined sappaa

    The company is actually aiming for a new ‘image’ to sell. They actually have preferences when scouting new employees now (e.g. flowy hair, thicker eyebrows, the whole au natural look, tattoos have become a big no-no). They still base hiring standards on looks (more-so than ever), so I think it’s more of a shift in image than an improvement on customer service. I guess they realized the hipsters are aging and the scene is dieing out.

  • Irene Pan.

    Ah, so true. Great writing!

  • Irene Pan.

    Took me exactly 9 hours to quit that weird world of youngsters…