So you’re probably wondering what I was in LA for last week…perhaps you think I rove California hunting down vintage and eating Pinkberry while wearing completely impractical footwear. Well, I do. But I also got to do something pretty special…
I almost can’t remember a time before triblend and lame…and since falling in love with them I have grown my American Apparel collection to include most socks and tights up for offer, numerous acid washed Ts, and I honestly wear their swimwear and bras almost exclusively. My boyfriend claims that lace does in fact exist but I counter that such contraptions as these are pretty much better. Add to that the fact that one of my earliest blog posts highlighted my favorite AA items, and I can conclude that I am kind of an American Apparel whore. But so are most of us! It is okay.
All of the above in mind, I was cautiously trying to contain extreme and giddy excitement when I received an email from one of Dov’s right hand men a few weeks ago inviting me on a tour of the American Apparel headquarters and factory, lest it be some kind of really oddly specific joke. The fact that Dov Charney has seen my blog/knows I exist is still a little difficult to grasp but I’ll just roll with it. I of course said yes and when I was informed I could explore their vintage “inspiration” room I think I entered an authentic daze.
So last Wednesday, one of my best friends dropped me off at the American Apparel headquarters in the Garment District in LA after a typically traffic-ridden drive. Gentleman that he is, he helped me make it through the smallish horde of people outside, into a err vintage elevator, and upstairs to reception while I tried to contain all kinds of random anxiety and gawked shamelessly at the bustling employees in their acid wash and purple fleece.
But moments later, I was meeting people that actually (thank god) knew who I was, and was whisked away to begin my tour. We first made it through the showroom, where all sorts of interestingly dressed buyers were quietly perusing, tightly gripping important looking clipboards. My tour guides Matthew and Shawn were so friendly and easygoing, as well as extremely forthcoming with all sorts of cool information that I hope to remember to relay in a cohesive manner. Matthew was also wearing a cool organic-looking vest, which I deemed noteworthy.
They told me about how everything from design to manufacturing to photo shoots are done in their two buildings there, and how this allows them to have a design go from a mere thought to being sold in test stores in a week as we entered the fashion design room, consisting of a very focused girl and guy in a room full of unimaginably cool pieces that I gasped over and petted. A pair of elasticated waist acid wash shorts and the famous double u-neck dress in faux denim were particularly intriguing, as well as a button down smock dress that was sort of APC in the ’70s-looking. And who doesn’t want that vibe? I asked about a pair of interesting looking skinny pants hanging on the wall, which the girl happened to be wearing – she got up and showed me and WOW the fit is perfect. I think they were these. I think.
I begrudgingly left this treasure trove and we made our way into a very intense, huge area where Tshirts were being churned out by the second.
I suddenly want everything in “dirty orange”! Mmmm body con dress. Anyway, exploring further, we passed into a cafeteria area where it seemed the item of the day was tamales. Adjacent was an on-site health care facility, pretty cool.
It was definitely surreal passing by enormous bundles of colorful jersey, a feeling that was elevated further when we entered an area with huge tentacled machines with tubes and receptacles that somehow managed to simultaneously look retro and futuristic. And they had my name written on them! Perhaps I invented them and then forgot. Turns out these were all sock machines! Machines that turn them out almost unsupervised. Very Willy Wonka, we all agreed sagely.
By this time I was thoroughly disoriented, the building is humongous! I think if I was left alone there I would just whimper in a corner until someone saved me, luring me out with a neon bodysuit. I followed my guides into that which I had been dreaming about, the vintage wing. There were two ladies working on a couple pieces for their vintage resurrection line, California Select, and racks and racks of floaty bohemian dresses and girlish frocks. I kind of wanted to live there. Matthew showed me the amassed deadstock vintage sunglasses (WANT) and a bunch of inspirational sources, including an impressive collection of vintage porn, of course. Next up was the photography studio and that white wall we’ve all come to know and love, as well as the graphic design center and the biggest printers I have ever seen in my life whirring nonstop. Apparently, unlike most retail companies that adopt a much more homogeneous philosophy, AA has different marketing and ads in different stores. Additionally, there isn’t a set way that each stores makes up it’s mannequins, which I find awesome as someone who, however briefly, worked in retail. Don’t even ask where.
My mind spinning with everything we had seen, we bid farewell to Matthew and broke for lunch at a nearby cafe, meeting up with the kind soul that had emailed me in the first place. We discussed everything from the blogosphere to Dov’s feverishly energetic personality and the controversy he always manages to generate. I unfortunately didn’t get to meet the legend himself…he called one of my fellow lunchers and said that he was meeting with the mayor over immigration reform but sent his regards. Sigh, well at least I saw his parking spot.
All in all, the whole thing was such a cool and unique experience, it’s so cool to be acknowledged by a company that I already devote so much wardrobe space to. So thank you American Apparel, Dov, my sweet tour guides, and everyone I met at the factory!