American Apparel just wrapped up the Woody Allen lawsuit last week, and they already have a new batch of fun for their public-relations department to deal with. The chain now faces the ire of Harlem protesters, upset that the 125th Street American Apparel store did not shut down for three hours in honor of Malcolm X's birthday on May 19. Protesters are calling for a boycott of that location, and on Saturday about twenty staged a demonstration outside the store. The Malcolm X New Millennium Committee requested that businesses along 125th Street close for a march between 1 and 4 p.m. They said they hand-delivered a letter detailing the request to the American Apparel store. A spokeswoman for American Apparel said the management for the store, which opened less than a year ago, received no advance notice about the march, but closed the store as soon as marchers arrived.
Other shop owners along 125th Street say they felt unfairly pressured to close during the march. They point out that they don't close on other holidays like July 4, but the marchers intimidate them, so shop owners roll down their gates as marchers pass. According to the New York Times, the march is often an outlet for voicing discontent over the gentrification of the neighborhood. In the past, Old Navy and HMV (now closed) have been targets of protesters.
American Apparel is trying to quell the unrest by drawing attention to their labor policies, which include hourly rates of at least twice the minimum wage, subsidized health care, free English lessons, meals, and regular massages. But no matter what controversy the chain finds itself currently mired in, their clothes are almost impossible not to buy. When you need a basic or that last thing to tie an outfit together, it's always right there staring you in the face with just what you need.
Should Harlem Stores Close for Malcolm X’s Birthday? [City Room/NYT]