Why Did American Apparel Go Bankrupt

Why Did American Apparel Go Bankrupt?


American Apparel, a renowned clothing brand that once dominated the fashion industry with its “Made in the USA” mantra, shocked the world when it filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and again in 2016. The company, known for its provocative advertisements and controversial founder Dov Charney, faced numerous challenges that ultimately led to its downfall. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind American Apparel’s bankruptcy, exploring various factors that contributed to its demise.

The Rise and Fall:

1. Financial Mismanagement:
One of the primary reasons for American Apparel’s bankruptcy was its poor financial management. The company had a history of excessive spending, with high manufacturing costs and bloated retail operations. Its aggressive expansion strategy, including rapid store openings, led to a substantial increase in overhead expenses. Additionally, American Apparel faced scrutiny for its large workforce and high labor costs, which further strained its financial resources.

2. Legal Troubles:
American Apparel faced several legal battles that significantly impacted its financial stability. Founder Dov Charney was involved in multiple lawsuits, including allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. These legal issues not only tarnished the brand’s image but also resulted in substantial legal fees and settlements, draining the company’s finances.

3. Changing Consumer Preferences:
As consumer preferences shifted towards fast fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M, American Apparel struggled to adapt. The brand’s focus on basics and staple items failed to resonate with the evolving fashion trends, where consumers desired more variety and affordable options. This failure to meet changing demands resulted in a decline in sales and a loss of market share.

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4. Ethical Concerns:
Although American Apparel positioned itself as an ethical and socially responsible brand, it faced numerous controversies regarding its labor practices. The company was criticized for its treatment of factory workers and allegations of exploitative labor conditions. These controversies damaged the brand’s reputation and led to boycotts by socially conscious consumers, further impacting its financial performance.

5. Intense Competition:
American Apparel faced fierce competition from both domestic and international fashion retailers. Large clothing chains that offered a wide range of trendy and affordable products, along with efficient supply chains, posed a significant threat to American Apparel’s business model. The company struggled to keep up with the competition, leading to a decline in sales and profitability.


Q: Was American Apparel’s bankruptcy solely due to its controversial founder, Dov Charney?
A: While Dov Charney’s legal troubles certainly played a role in the company’s downfall, there were other contributing factors. Financial mismanagement, changing consumer preferences, ethical concerns, and intense competition were equally responsible.

Q: Did American Apparel’s “Made in the USA” approach contribute to its bankruptcy?
A: While American Apparel’s commitment to manufacturing in the USA initially attracted customers, it also resulted in higher production costs compared to offshore manufacturing. This, coupled with changing consumer preferences and intense competition, put the brand at a disadvantage.

Q: Did American Apparel attempt any restructuring to avoid bankruptcy?
A: Yes, American Apparel made efforts to restructure its operations, including closing down underperforming stores and cutting jobs. However, these measures were not enough to overcome the company’s financial burdens and declining sales.

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Q: Is American Apparel completely out of business now?
A: American Apparel’s brand and intellectual property were acquired by Gildan Activewear in 2017. Gildan Activewear continues to sell American Apparel products online, but the physical stores have been permanently closed.


American Apparel’s bankruptcy was the result of a perfect storm, combining financial mismanagement, legal troubles, changing consumer preferences, ethical concerns, and intense competition. The company’s inability to adapt to evolving market dynamics and its failure to streamline operations ultimately led to its downfall. American Apparel serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the importance of sound financial management, staying in tune with consumer preferences, and fostering a positive brand image.