american apparel: no uglies, please

Here's an idea: don't create any workplace policies that might embarrass you if they became public. Social media is a good practice space for tuning the rest of your organization to be more transparent, and it's always a good policy to assume that every communication in your workplace will eventually be shared publicly.

And that's exactly what's happening with American Apparel. Gawker has published a bunch of internal memos that show the dress codes, employee photos and other ugly gate keeping practices that the stores follow. Woops.


Unknown said...

Probably not going to be a popular comment. But I actually think this is a good example of a company doing a great job managing their brand. Their sales consultants represent the brand in probably the most important arena – when consumers are most engaged with the brand. Keeping that representation consistent is critical – and for a fashion brand the focus should be on their look. Not unlike choosing models for a print ad – which would not come across as discriminatory because we're used to it.(Also, American Apparel a private company; they can hire who they want. And no body is forcing anyone to work there.)

darryl ohrt said...

Kathryn - I don't totally disagree with you.

What I think could have been handled differently is a more public presentation of the concept. Like if their website had a section "working at AP" that detailed what they look for, and how they see their associates not unlike models, etc.

The fact that it's coming out now as clandestine policy makes it feel weird (that, and management making fun of employees based on their photos.)

There was an opportunity to turn a job at AP into the chance of a lifetime. Make it a coveted position like a part in a movie. People could aspire to this. To be "AP beautiful."

But they handled it in a more secretive way, and made it feel sleazy. (But to your point, maybe sleazy is ON BRAND for them. :)

Unknown said...

Good point as well. (And I love the idea of turning a sales associate job into a coveted position – they could have supported it with awesome tactics that could have made that a branding campaign in and of itself.)

If nothing else, it's another example of how a company's internal practices are a huge brand driver today - consumers evaluating brands based on the way they do business. Transparency (with a proper spin) always wins.

American Apparel won a lot of hearts when they first came out for their vertically integrated manufacturing. But in the minds of their consumers, this may have just canceled out all that do-gooding.

Ben Kunz said...

Kathryn and Darryl,

I agree with both of you. Hiring based on looks is a no-win situation when it appears clandestine, but at the same time, it should shock no one that retail chains want their desk reps representing the brand.

I was in NYC the other day and walked by a high-end leather good store. Fancy bags and purses and wallets were lit just so, and there, behind the counter, was a young blonde woman who looked like a model -- frankly, so good-looking it was almost off-putting to consider walking in to the store. I don't say this to be sexist; I'm sure the store manager knew exactly what she or he was doing by hiring such personnel.

We all wear uniforms to rep our brands. The meeting I had in NYC was in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, and I assure you I wore my best suit and shaved off any remnants of beard before walking in. Creative agencies prefer black, tight jeans and sneakers. We all want people who project an image of the value we can provide.

If your value is looks and hipness, the channel presentation needs to fall in line. It's not discrimination; it's what people aspire to, and it's what people buy.

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