After meeting with Oscar and checking out Groceries Apparel we checked into our hotel, The Standard in Downtown LA. I’m not going to say a lot about The Standard except that it is a fun place to stay with an awesome rooftop Beer Garden….For real, a Beer Garden on the roof. Check it out. The Standard Hotel LA.
From The Standard we headed over to American Apparel.
American Apparel is the largest garment manufacturer actually producing goods in America. It is pretty easy to find. Just look for the huge pink building with different colors of curtains on each floor. The two buildings that make up American Apparel started out as one floor of the building on the right. The building on the left is now warehousing and shipping and receiving.
We shopped around the Factory Outlet and the Wholesale Showroom, then checked in and began our tour from the top floor down.
American Apparel is a vertically integrated manufacturer. The garments move though the factory from cutting to sewing by either moving up or down though the factory. An old elevator ride to the top and it instantly became apparent that everything is done in house and American Apparel is all about American jobs. Thousands of people work at American Apparel in multiple shifts. From marketing and accounting, to production and maintenance everything is done by an American worker on site or at the dye house down the street. When at full production American Apparel can produce almost one million shirts per week. The process is mostly the same as it is at Groceries but everything is on a huge scale. A very short story of how a garment is created goes like this- A pattern is created, the fabric is laid out, the fabric is cut using the pattern then the fabric pieces are sewn together to make a shirt.
Here a huge machine lays the fabric out and then cuts it with a die like a cookie cutter. This machine only works on regular cotton fabric.
For softer fabrics the garment workers can use a fancy CAD cutter.
The most sheer fabrics have to be laid out and cut by hand.
Check out the chain mail glove. This fellow had an amazing steady right hand. The cut pieces of fabric then move to Sewing. Sewing is where the pieces of fabric are sewn together like a puzzle to make a shirt.
The employees at American Apparel are the highest paid garment workers in the world.They work on a piece system where they can make much more than their base pay. The average Sewer earns around $13.00/hr with full benefits. Sometimes they earn much more. Speaking of benefits there is an onsite medical clinic so that all employees have access to free basic health care. Having the medical clinic in the building also greatly reduces the reaction time if there is ever a medical emergency in the building.
Another benefit of being an employee of American Apparel is discounted lunch and dinners in the cafeteria (with it’s amazing view of Downtown LA). Of all the benefits AA employees have, one blew my mind. Near the cafeteria is a line of phones that dial direct to Mexico for Mexican American employees to call their families.
Seeing the factory, I was struck by how much American Apparel cares about its employees. They go the extra mile to take care of their people and it is amazing to see. It really is an American product made by American people. Want to take your own American Apparel Factory Tour?
We know what you are thinking…….but we had to buy shiny jackets at the factory outlet! It is LA after all….