How Did It Come to This?

Surely somewhere in the collapse of retailer American Apparel there is a metaphor appropriate for the policy platform put forth by Donald Trump. The President talks about bringing jobs back to the United States and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ironically, with AA, we see the demise of an iconic, hip “Made in the USA” brand, with its remaining assets being sold to Canadian-based Gildan. What’s up with that? Eh?

The Featured Image, and the pic following below the fold, tells a different story: Recent remembrance of another American Apparel, which allure popped pop culture’s cherry, for coolness and sex-appeal. On May 8, 2010, the retailer’s San Diego store held a rummage sale that drew long lines that wrapped around the block such that the end overlapped the beginning. I captured the moment with the Sigma DP2s. What a change in 7 years—and not just for the one clothier. Last year, local company Sports Chalet went out of business, around the same time as national chain Sports Authority. The Limited is shuttering all its stores, and Macy’s nearly 70. Should we blame China or, hehe, Amazon

The Atlantic and the Guardian both offer excellent American Apparel post-mortems. While the analyses are informative, they feel light to me. There’s a story here bigger than the one clothier, given troubles elsewhere. BTW, retailers typically declare bankruptcy, particularly if goal is to stay in business, during the first few weeks of any new year, when coffers are full of cash from holiday sales. Others close the doors forever, when Christmas can’t reverse fortunes.

American Apparel is on my mind because the other day my wife and I stopped by the Hillcrest location while out for a walk (the downtown store is gone). I wanted to buy a zip-up hoodie—and appealing: 40-percent-off-everything-in-the-store sale; thought of purchasing a relic to remember the retailer. But if there ever were any appealing styles, they were sold to other shoppers. Then there was the size problem. All the smalls were talls. The long cuts clearly were tailored for someone as slim as me but with greater height.

Returning to the photos, they are two of four shot quickly—not an easy feat for the slow-focusing Sigma DP2s. But the color! Oh La La! I remain a fan of the Foveon sensor and the rich color it is capable of delivering. The Featured Image is straight from the camera, tweaked a little today to straighten. The other is edited, from the RAW in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, to make the waiting line more visible; it’s cropped, too. The view is the other side of the very long block around which shoppers waited to get into the store. Because of local fire regulations, American Apparel staff limited the number of people inside at the same time. Vitals for the first, shot at 10:18 a.m. PST: f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/1600 sec, 24.2mm. The other, two minutes later: f/4, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, 24.2mm.

I switched from dSLR to mirrorless, favoring fixed-lens bodies, in March 2008, with the Sigma DP1. The DP2s arrived 25 months later. This week, I started shooting the Fujifilm X100F, about which I will have more to say over the coming weeks. As for American Apparel, I fear many more closures are to come. Whither will they be?