CLEVELAND — Another American retailer doesn’t want anything to do with Donald Trump.
American Apparel issued a statement Wednesday that distanced itself from the Republican presidential nominee after it was learned his campaign is using some of the brand’s products for Trump merchandise selling at the convention here.
“American Apparel is a company that stands for inclusiveness, as is evidenced by our campaigns tackling issues such as immigration reform, discrimination, marriage and gender equality,” a spokeswoman said.
“Because we believe in free trade, we sell our American-made T-shirts to thousands of screen printers across the country, allowing them to sell to any customers they choose,” she added in an explanation as to how the campaign could have ended up using American Apparel T-shirts without the company’s knowledge.
“Since we cannot control our wholesalers’ business practices, we want to emphasize that our core values do not always align with the messages printed on the end consumer’s product,” the American Apparel spokeswoman said.
It was always ironic the Trump campaign would end up using American Apparel T-shirts for several reasons. First, a large percentage of the retailer’s workforce is made up of immigrants. The company actually came under government scrutiny in 2009 and was forced to fire 1,500 immigrant workers because they were unable to prove they had a legal right to work in the U.S.
Then there is the racy reputation of American Apparel’s founder and ousted chief executive officer, Dov Charney, who was dogged by charges of sexual harassment throughout his tenure. Charney fought a prolonged battle to regain control of the company, but ultimately was defeated. Current ceo Paula Schneider has been making moves to stabilize the firm — including the possibility of outsourcing some of its production.
Schneider was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Trump’s antitrade and anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail has stirred controversy in many corners of the business world. He has vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has also called for imposing high tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, a threat that was not well received by U.S. companies that import billions of dollars of clothing into the U.S. every year.
American Apparel is the second major U.S. retailer to disavow Trump’s policies after Macy’s Inc. did so last year when the-then candidate made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. Macy’s chairman Terry J. Lundgren — who at one time was a friend of Trump’s — had the retailer drop his men’s wear collection and fragrance.
In revealing the decision, Lundgren said, “Some decisions are very difficult to make. But our company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in all facets of the business, including in our relationships with business partners, is a strong guiding force.”
But while Lundgren claimed it was Macy’s decision to drop Trump, the candidate had another story. “Macy’s choked under pressure,” Trump told WWD at the time. “I hate chokers.”
Trump went on to say “Macy’s has been weak on illegal immigration. They want to be politically correct, but they’re taking the wrong stand on this. I have a very different stance. I am strong on border security and we must stop illegal immigration….I love Mexican people and the Mexican people love me. This has to do with border security and horrible trade deals. We are getting ripped off” in trade deals. Trump said he talked with Lundgren — who he is friendly with — about discontinuing his products, and said it was as much his decision as Macy’s. Asked how he felt about the outcome, Trump replied: “I’m fine with it. It’s absolutely fine. It’s not a big business compared to my real business.”
He added that he was never happy having his products manufactured in China which “manipulates currencies, making it impossible for this country to compete.” Then he added of his friend: “Terry took the politically correct route and that is the problem with this country.”
A year later, it’s clear Trump isn’t letting the issue go. At a campaign stop in Raleigh, N.C., on July 5, the candidate railed against the retailer for cutting off the business. “I lost the shirts because Macy’s was so disloyal. I lost the ties because Macy’s didn’t like what I was saying about illegal immigration. Can you believe it?” Trump asked the crowd of supporters.
Wait until he hears about American Apparel.