American Apparel: No fat chicks

The hipster clothier with a notoriously pervy head honcho launches a plus-size line ... for men only.

Published April 10, 2009 3:35PM (EDT)

American Apparel, the company that provides body-hugging basics to hipsters the world over, is no stranger to feminist criticism. It is, after all, run by the epically sleazy Dov Charney, a man who has repeatedly been charged with sexually harassing employees and, in 2004, masturbated during a Jane magazine interview. And then there's the company's ubiquitous and controversial cheesecake ads.

Now, there's a whole new brouhaha brewing. American Apparel has launched a plus-size sister  company called Colossal Clothing. The catch? It's only for guys. (I guess that makes it a "brother company.") Here's what Colossal, founded by former AA marketing consultant Dave Friedman,  has to say for itself:

Big and Tall clothing has always been an afterthought in the eyes of the apparel industry. For too long, the only stuff available to big guys has been Hawaiian shirts and tent-cut clothing that leaves you looking even bigger than you really are.

We started Colossal Clothing because we’re both fashion industry veterans and large guys (one big, one tall) ourselves. No one was making the kind of subtly cool, urban, hip clothes we wanted to wear, so we made our own. After getting compliments everywhere we went, we realized we were onto something.

These goals are laudable -- in fact, they reflect the ethos of many DIY, plus-size women's clothing companies. But if you're going to bother replicating the American Apparel line (which tops out at XL) for "big guys," "tall guys," and "bodybuilders," why not also expand the market to larger ladies? 

Well, as Jezebel once hilariously documented, much of American Apparel's often bizarre, frequently metallic women's line only flatters the skinniest of girls. But surely some of the company's comfortable, stylish, sweatshop-free shirts, skirts and dresses could survive a jump to the larger sizes. I can't help but suspect the decision to make Colossal Clothing dudes-only has something to do with Charney's unwillingness to admit fat girls into the club, perhaps out of fear that they'll ruin the brand's cool-kid cachet. As feminists, this leaves us with a strange dilemma: Do we consider it a good thing or bad thing that we won't be seeing two-story billboards of size-20 women bending over in knee socks and boy briefs?

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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