From tampon tax to pink razors – why are women always punished at the till?

According to new research, women are being charged up to twice as much for nearly identical products compared to their male counterparts by leading high street brands.

First published by The International Business Times, 20th January 2016

According to new research, women are being charged up to twice as much for nearly identical products compared to their male counterparts by leading high street brands.

Women are already getting a raw financial deal in the UK, as continued austerity disproportionately affects women, so the revelation that major retailers seem involved in a broad scam to take more money out of the pockets of the female population is incredibly disheartening.

The Times investigation found that the pricing of hundreds of products aimed at women and girls are on average 37% more expensive than the male equivalents, presumably because it costs much more to make retail items pink than it does to make them blue.

Some of the UK’s most popular brands were named in the investigation, including Tesco, Argos, Boots, Levi’s, and Amazon. A children’s scooter in Argos was found to be £5 more expensive in pink than in blue, and women’s Levi’s 501 jeans cost on average 46% more than the men’s versions, despite having the same measurements for the waist and leg.

Tesco responded to the report by saying that “a number of products for females have additional design and performance features”, but if they are referring to the pack of razors in pink that they charge double the price for, it’s unclear how this is the case. Perhaps the pink razors are coated in some kind of cushioning fairy dust that protects the delicate skin of fragile females, because men have tough, hoary hides that need no soothing or respite from the burn of razor blades.

But no, the report specifies that these are identical razors, different only from the man-product due to their colour. Tesco said “we work hard to offer clear, fair and transparent pricing”, a statement that has been proved so laughable that it’s odd that they even bothered including it.

Boots made a similar statement when approached for comment, stressing that their products are “priced individually based on factors including formulation, ingredients and market comparison”. If the formulation and ingredients in women’s products are magically more expensive than what’s being offered to men, this is weird and sexist in itself.

Men and women both have skin, both consume skincare and other cosmetic products, and both choose to remove hair from their bodies. There’s no discernible reason why identical products should be ‘differently formulated’ or differently priced for one sex.

In the case of the more expensive pink scooters from Argos, it’s worth questioning why any children’s toy should be exclusively marketed to either girls or boys. There’s only one reason why a toy should be for a particular sex, and that’s because you operate it with your genitals. If this is the case, the toy is definitely not for children. If it’s not the case, the toy is for either boys or girls.

The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has been vocal in challenging sexist marketing of playthings, from the ridiculously-gendered Lego Friends series and lack of female mini figs in action roles, to pressuring top retailers into dropping ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signage from their aisles.

A scooter is a scooter, it’s not a male scooter or a female scooter. Instilling reductive notions of gender into children through the way their toys are marketed is regressive, strengthens unnecessary barriers between genders, and stigmatizes kids who don’t want to be confined to pink or blue boxes.

Tampon tax
Since tampons are such a luxury, it’s surprising that more women don’t dispense with them altogether to save moneyiStock

Sam Smethers from the Fawcett Society dubbed the extra cost a “sexist surcharge”, and she’s absolutely right. The only reason I can think of to explain why retailers are selling products targeted at women at significantly higher prices is because they have no respect for female consumers.

They think we’re stupid. Why else would we shell out more for the same product, just because it comes in a pastel colour? Women are being roundly ripped off in Britain.

We’re already paying tax on sanitary products, when other ‘essentials’ like crocodile meat, Jaffa Cakes, pitta bread, and bingo are VAT-free. Since tampons are such a luxury, it’s surprising that more women don’t dispense with them altogether to save money, and simply bleed freely in offices, on public transport, and when visiting friends with new white sofas.

At the 2015 spending review, George Osborne announced that the £15m raised by the tampon tax would be going to women’s services, the same women’s services that the Chancellor decided to slash in the name of austerity. It’s unclear what his long-term strategy for funding them is, as he has pledged to eventually abolish the tampon tax altogether, but for now, it seems to be acceptable for women who have been raped or the victims of domestic violence to pay for their own counselling and care because they bleed every month.

The retailers responsible for sexist cost differences could be called to Parliament to justify their pricing, but the honourable response should be for Tesco, Boots, Amazon, Argos, and Levi’s to independently alter their disparate prices. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because women are already being financially exploited in Tory Britain, without the companies we buy from making mugs out of us too.

Outdated and Unreliable: Cosmetic Testing on Animals

I love makeup. I love it, but I can’t justify buying a product that isn’t essential to my life, that has been developed by companies responsible for the suffering and death of animals, regardless of how good the discount is or whether Kate Moss appears in the advert.

First published by The Huffington Post 1st December 2014

I love makeup. I love it, but I can’t justify buying a product that isn’t essential to my life, that has been developed by companies responsible for the suffering and death of animals, regardless of how good the discount is or whether Kate Moss appears in the advert.

My quest for cruelty-free started with the beauty company Lush. I thought that if they could sell products that didn’t harm animals, what was stopping other companies from doing the same? The more I looked into animal testing, the more of a no-brainer the issue seemed. Animal experiments have only a 5-25% success rate for predicting harmful human side effects. Animals pass 92% of clinical tests that humans fail, meaning that the predictions from animal testing are inconclusive and often incorrect. If the tests aren’t producing meaningful results, why haven’t they been completely eradicated?

This is a question that is still relevant in the UK despite the EU banning the sale of all cosmetic products developed through animal testing in March 2013. The process of picking out truly cruelty-free products is much more complex than it needs to be because we make our purchases in an increasingly global marketplace. Countries operate under different regulatory standards and there is still no formal national regulatory acceptance process in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Russia and Canada. Big companies want to sell to as many places as possible, meaning that animal testing often sneaks into their practices despite the EU’s ban.

If you go to your local Boots or Superdrug and pick up a Rimmel mascara or a Maybelline foundation, your purchase still supports animal testing elsewhere in the world. This is because large companies like the two mentioned above sell their products to the Chinese market. In China, it is illegal to sell cosmetic products that have not been tested on animals. The products you buy in the Europe may not in themselves have been tested on animals, but the company will still conduct animal tests elsewhere in the world.

Toxicologists, chemists and pharmacists who are committed to removing animals from cosmetic testing are currently working on the ‘Three Rs’ principle. The Three Rs stand for Reduce, Refine, and Replace, and the main focus is on the complete replacement of animal subjects in testing. In the not-so-distant future, all routine toxicity testing can be conducted in human cells and cell lines. 3D models of human tissue are the way forward as they offer much more accurate predictions without relying on animal suffering.

Although I’m not specifically writing about the use of animals in testing drugs and medications, there have also been replacement developments in this area. For example, in October 2014, human brain cells were replicated for use in Alzheimer’s research. If we can replace animals in medical trials, there is no reason why they should be used for cosmetic products.

On 24th November, Lush held their annual conference and awards ceremony, to celebrate and reward the work done globally to end animal testing. I caught up with Mark Constantine, the founder of Lush, and Hilary Jones, the ethics director at Lush, to find out more about Lush’s cruelty-free principles and their plans for the future.

The Body Shop became part of the L’Oreal Group in 2006. L’Oreal is known for continuing to test ingredients on animals, a practice that is antithetical to the founding principles of The Body Shop. Could Lush ‘sell out’ in the same way?

Hilary Jones:
If you want to run a company to a set of values of your choosing, then it seems to us that it is essential to not take in investment from outside or go public. When others outside the company are interested only in financial returns or share dividends, this limits the scope of the decisions one can make.

Mark Constantine: We’re making sure that no one can ever sell Lush. We cannot be bought by L’Oreal. They wouldn’t have the intellectual property. Our aim is to have more staff ownership, a staff trust where people get the profits of their hard work coming down through the business. The key is to employ as many passionate people as possible, who have fierce views on how things should be run, so that whenever anyone tries to turn away from that, they will be met with strong opposition. We need to be passionate and vigorous, answering questions as they come up, and fighting battles that have been won before but need to be won again.

Is Lush doing anything to help change the regulatory laws in China?

Hilary Jones: There is almost no way to completely stop the illicit purchase and resale of our products into China, try as we will. But most important to us is the dialogue that many animal groups are having with China, to try to encourage them to harmonise their legislation with the stricter non-animal standards of Europe. Any advances in animal welfare in a country the size of China have a huge effect on vast amounts of animals. We will not trade there until there is no longer any requirement for animal testing at all stages of product development and sale.

Do you consider Lush to be an ethical employer?

Hilary Jones: Internally we never call ourselves an ethical company. We have a vision for our company that we are constantly striving towards but is always just that little bit out of reach. I am not sure that we would ever settle for where we are, because we would always want to make more improvements or implement other ideas. We know we are not perfect, but the heart and soul of the company is good and caring and there is a wish to create something different and better than the norm.

How would you respond to claims that a profitable business cannot be run on ethical principles?

Hilary Jones: Well it simply can. All too often that is just used as an excuse to do nothing. The business-as-usual idea, where anything goes in the pursuit of profit. We make sure that we judge our decisions against a set of values and objectives, with money simply being one of them. There are times when decisions have been made that dent profit – but those kind of losses can be offset by other ethical decisions, like taking more care of how one uses energy and water. We believe a healthy business model can be built that allows for the freedom to do the right thing at more cost sometimes, where necessary, without sacrificing overall profitability.

Would you consider releasing a cheaper range of make-up for shoppers on a budget (students etc.) who wish to switch their cosmetic products over to cruelty-free?

Hilary Jones: We certainly don’t regard ourselves as a high end brand by any means. But we also recognise that many families have had less disposable income over the last few years and prices need to be affordable. We try to price our products fairly, taking into account the costs of the materials used in each individual product. We don’t squander money on packaging, or advertising – which are things that hugely inflate the prices of many cosmetics brands. But it is not necessarily the cheaper products that become our best sellers – so clearly price is not the only thing that drives our customers. For us, the challenge is putting together a product made of wonderful ingredients which customers then find meets a need in their life and wants to keep buying. To invent a product that our customer love, that can be made with ingredients from our fair trade projects and that required no animal testing is for us the greatest joy and the reason we come to work each day – and if that product is also one that requires no packaging, then we feel our work here is done.

Mark Constantine: We’re doing it. The real key is to cut away the marketing and get the advice right. If I make sure that what you buy from me is appropriate for you, you won’t end up with a bathroom cabinet or dressing table full of crap that you know you’re going to throw out. So if you’re buying three for two, and you only use a tiny bit because it wasn’t right for you, then that’s what we’re fighting. We don’t want you to end up with trial and error products, where a lot of it is a waste of your money and then goes to landfill.

If you’re interested in switching over your makeup and grooming products to cruelty-free alternatives, it’s important to have accurate information at your fingertips. Don’t get confused by brands that claim to be cruelty-free, while employing other companies to carry out animal tests for them. This information changes all the time, for example, Urban Decay are no longer considered cruelty-free due to their involvement with L’Oreal.

Public health is not being protected by animal testing. These tests are not reliable and we have 21st century solutions that can guarantee consumer safety without causing suffering. What we need now is joined-up, global thinking across big brands, and a vote-with-your-feet consumer approach. If you don’t like animals getting sick and dying for your foundation or shower gel, don’t buy from brands that use animals in tests. The majority of companies are profit driven, meaning that the consumer has much more individual and collective power than you might think.

The Ex-Anorexic’s Guide to Shopping

I love shopping, but it’s stressful. It’s particularly stressful because I’m an ex-anorexic and bulimic, and I can trace the pattern of my almost ten year struggle with food and weight in the clothing I’ve bought over that period.

First published by New Statesman 9th September 2014

I love shopping, but it’s stressful. It’s particularly stressful because I’m an ex-anorexic and bulimic, and I can trace the pattern of my almost ten year struggle with food and weight in the clothing I’ve bought over that period.
I had a pair of denim shorts that were so small that they cut off the blood supply to my lower half, and I was determined to fit them comfortably. Fitting into the shorts became a symbol for all the stuff I thought would come when I was thin enough. I would be loved and beautiful and perfect. I would have THE body and THE career, friends and partner to go with it. I would finally feel alright.
However, there’s no such thing as “thin enough” to someone with anorexia, and the eating disorder left me with none of the prizes it promised me. Just a trail of broken relationships and a broken body of a much, much older woman than my 23 years. In case you’re wondering, I eventually cut the shorts up with kitchen scissors and put the pieces in the bin.

If the tone of this column seems excessively light-hearted, it’s because writing it was very painful. Even though I consider myself to be recovered, something as trivial as flipping through a rack of t-shirts is incredibly triggering. My eating disorder no longer takes up all my headspace, but sits in the corner of my vision, quietly sulking. Many recovered women share the perspective that it never fully leaves, particularly when faced with a potentially triggering situation, like clothes or food shopping, or a trip to the beach.

1. The nightmare of sizing

When I was very sick, I oscillated between buying two sizes of clothing. One was the very smallest the shop had to offer (usually a UK size 4) and the other was large, or as large as I could physically get away with, without the garments trailing on the floor or flapping behind me like a flag. I swung between flaunting my thinness in crops and tiny skirts that wouldn’t have fitted a ten year old, and swamping myself in baggy t-shirts, ill-fitting boyfriend jeans and shapeless jumpers.
When I got into recovery and my body changed, I clung to the oversized clothing to conceal my newly-elephantine (or so I believed) shape. As time passed, I realised I had to get used to this new body shit, and accept that my size was a 6-8. (That is small, I hear you cry. Try telling that to an ex-anorexic who wants to wear kiddie-sized clothes.)
I’ve found that the best way to deal with the sizing nightmare is just to pretend that the triggering, eating-disordered-me sizes don’t exist. And repeat the helpful mantra in your head that, despite all social messages to the contrary, the size of the jeans you’re buying does not define you as a human being. Head in the air, I now ignore the tiny sizes with the icy pride usually reserved for blanking an unpleasant ex-boyfriend in a bar. Sometimes I’m even tempted to hiss “you’re not for me” when I’m browsing the Topshop sale rail and see the odd, lonely size 4 playsuit, but I don’t because I don’t want the staff to think I’m completely insane.

2. The horror of the changing rooms

Once you’ve selected an item, it’s time to brave the changing rooms and try the damn thing on. Many women are suspicious of shop changing rooms at the best of times, even if their body issues don’t make them officially eating disordered. The harsh lighting (it’s always harsh, isn’t it?) and the abundance of unforgiving mirrors always show the body in the most unflattering relief. I don’t know whether this is a conspiracy on behalf of the retailer to make you look awful and more inclined to “improve” yourself by purchasing their wares, or simply the result of cheap lights and mirrors. Away from high street chains, independent clothes shops sometimes have a more “your bedroom at home” feel to their changing rooms, which is a little more comforting.
It’s essential to remember that shop lighting and shop mirrors rarely make anyone look good. They are evil, fun house mirrors, designed to distort your body. They can’t be trusted.
If you’re still experiencing a degree of body dysmorphia (where your body looks and feels very different to how it actually is), this effect may be more severe. Body dysmorphia can turn every reflective surface into a minefield, bearing a distorted image that does not correlate with reality. This side effect of anorexia, bulimia and EDNOS (a mixture of the two conditions) can be very frightening and disorientating because it means that you are unable to trust your own eyes.
In order to survive the changing room ordeal virtually unscathed, it might be helpful to expect the bare minimum from the fit of your clothes. This means that if the jeans go over your hips comfortably, buy them. If the top fits your boobs inside without gaping open, buy it. You can deal with the minutiae of whether or not an item makes you look a little bit more like Beyoncé when you get home, using familiar mirrors. This is why shops have return policies.

3. The models and mannequins

Clothing shops, by their very nature, are filled with seriously triggering, larger-than-life advertisement posters featuring really thin women. You can avoid fashion magazines all you like, but in clothing retailers you literally cannot get away from depictions of super-skinny models. The mannequins are just as bad. I don’t know who they were initially modelled on, but it wasn’t any human person I’ve ever seen in real life.
We all know that photoshopping and the manipulation of fashion images is something that happens, but it’s especially important to bear this in mind in clothes shops. The ads you’re subjected to in-store are the product of hours of hair, makeup, special lighting and computer retouching. This means that they aren’t technically “real” or organic. And no amount of relapsing is going to make you look like Cara Delevingne in the latest Topshop campaign. Wellness is too precious to be chucked away for something as mean and pernicious as the way fashion images might make you feel.

One of the best ways to combat the horror of shopping as an ex-anorexic is to take a sympathetic friend or family member along with you. I usually pick my sister, because she artfully highlights the ridiculousness of the situation, so that I come away laughing rather than in tears. If I start mooning over pictures of models in-store or the fact that ASOS now stocks a UK size 2 for adult women, she reminds me that I have brittle bones and my spine is technically crumbling, as a direct result of my eating disorder. And that she, and everyone else who matters in my life, will love me whatever size jeans I wear.

American Apparel’s porntastic ads were just the icing on Dov Charney’s sleaze cake

Dov Charney, the founder, president and CEO of American Apparel, found himself without a job this week. I think it’s safe to assume that the prevailing sense among American Apparel staff and management will be one of pure, unadulterated relief.

First published by The Independent, 20th June 2014

Dov Charney, the founder, president and CEO of American Apparel, found himself without a job this week. I think it’s safe to assume that the prevailing sense among American Apparel staff and management will be one of pure, unadulterated relief.

Charney created American Apparel, the best place to buy shiny leggings and see-through leotards with double-take price tags, in 1998. The company has been mired in controversy ever since.
The now-defunct magazine Jane ran a profile of Charney in 2005. Claudine Ko described how he masturbated in front of her during the interview, and called afterwards to explain that he needed to get ‘his release’ before he could properly speak to her.
By 2006, Charney had been sued by three separate employees for sexual harassment; one woman claimed that Charney had a quirky taste for holding meetings wearing only a ‘cock sock’. 2008 saw another sexual harassment lawsuit, this time from an ex-employee who accused Charney of forcing her to simulate masturbation, and ordering a male member of staff to pretend to masturbate in front of her. Charney was also accused of showering an employee with homophobic and anti-Semitic insults, grabbing his throat and rubbing his face in the dirt.Charney’s appetite for personally judging the photographs of prospective staff members is just the icing on the hideous harassment-mixed-with-discrimination cake here. (Don’t ask me what that cake looks like, it isn’t appetising.) He reportedly created rules for the personal grooming of employees, particularly women employees, and encouraged the firing of anyone who didn’t fit in with the “American Apparel aesthetic”. A former store manager told Gawker that they were told to only hire the “right kind” of black women.

In 2010, Charney received a $1.1m bonus, despite the plummeting stock price of American Apparel and the firing of 1,800 workers. One of the reasons that Charney was forced to step down was the lagging profits under his leadership, but since American Apparel’s board have terminated his contract following allegations of misconduct, it would hardly be surprising if his record of employee complaints was the deciding factor. Either way, shares in American Apparel jumped as much as 20 per cent in New York trading after the news of his departure was made public.

Perhaps with Charney gone, American Apparel will have no need for their “At Will Confidentiality Agreement” which stipulates that any worker who contacts the media or disparages Charney in public or online will be liable to pay a penalty of $1m. The agreement also demands that AA employees should not discuss the company at a volume that “reasonably could be overheard by a third party”. Without the looming presence of Charney, they may be able to raise their voices above a whisper.

Whatever you think of American Apparel’s porntastic advertisements and its overpriced jersey basics, the firing of Dov Charney hails a new era for the company and gives his alleged victims at least some justice. The good news is that Charney is history. The bad news is that it took so long to happen.

Who Are Urban Outfitters?

I’ve always hate a love/hate relationship with Urban Outfitters, caught between my adoration for their clothes and my disapproval for the controversies they seem so adept at racking up.

First published in The Huffington Post 28th September 2013

I’ve always hate a love/hate relationship with Urban Outfitters, caught between my adoration for their clothes and my disapproval for the controversies they seem so adept at racking up. They might be known for their hipster beanies and shoes with crazy platforms, but who are Urban Outfitters? Who are they really selling to? And what makes them popular?

Urban Outfitters Inc. is an American company that incorporates the brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN, and holds over 400 retail locations. The founder and CEO is Richard Hayne, an American guy who has thrown his considerable financial weight behind endorsing the anti-gay Republican Rick Santorum. Rick likes to compare homosexuality to bestiality and thinks that climate change was made up by the government so they can control your life. Why, one might ask, does CEO Hayne back a politician whose policy positions are ultra-conservative, when the young people who buy from Urban Outfitters are traditionally the most liberal-minded demographic? OU have also been in trouble for using the term ‘Navajo’ to sell products that are NOT made or designed by American Indians (let’s all take a lesson from Miley Cyrus and admit that cultural appropriation isn’t cool) and various t-shirt slogans, including one reading ‘Eat Less’ that was pulled from the online store in 2010. Thumbs up for the promotion of eating disorders… not.

I decided to chat to Chris Botham, manager of the York branch of Urban Outfitters, and ask some questions. York’s high street doesn’t sport as many brands as in Leeds or Manchester, despite the abundance of independent boutiques and ye olde fudge shops, and so I figured that the Topshop would be OU’s biggest competition in terms of similar pricing and demographic. However, I didn’t detect much store rivalry, mainly because Urban Outfitters are trying to do something a bit different.

Unlike Topshop, which has a few concessions but most clothing is by Topshop itself; Urban Outfitters boasts around 255 brands, 8 of which are manufactured exclusively for Urban Outfitters.
There is no single, ubiquitous ‘Urban Outfitters’ brand, but you won’t find Sparkle & Fade, Cooperative or BDG anywhere else. All stock hangs around for only 8/10 weeks before it is marked down, which makes grabbing a bargain pretty easy. The best thing about talking to someone ‘on the ground’ in the OU empire, was that Chris helped dispel the notion that Urban Outfitters is a brand solely for cool students with a bit of cash to spend and a penchant for vinyl and patterned hip flasks. Chris talked about inclusion, not exclusion, about attracting older men and women, the importance of helping out anyone who’s browsing and not alienating potential customers.

One of my main concerns was that OU appears to sell the complete ‘alternative’ lifestyle, a one-stop shop for your music and togs and home ware, but it’s a mass produced individuality. You want to stand out but just end up looking like all the other people who want to stand out too. Chris’ answer was that although the clothes are mass-produced, they find their way into stores on a smaller scale, the York outlet getting maybe 30 dresses in one particular style, meaning that you won’t spot as many people wearing the same outfit as you.

What struck me most was a real disparity between people like Chris, working really hard to make the brand something that feels inclusive, rather than a too-cool hipster club, and the top brass (CEO Richard Hayne) who support ultra-conservative crazies. There’s some really cool and inventive design going into the OU magazine and into the stripped-down design of the stores, plus they have great clothes. All we need is for Hayne to listen to his consumer base and stop spending their money on dubious causes… oh, and no more ‘Eat Less’ t-shirts, please.

Why I’ve Given Up Shopping at American Apparel

Shiny disco pants are everywhere and I need block-colour basics as much as the next girl, but cracks are beginning to show in American Apparel’s conscious-consumer chic.1. It’s stupidly expensive.

First published in The Huffington Post 30th April 2013

Shiny disco pants are everywhere and I need block-colour basics as much as the next girl, but cracks are beginning to show in American Apparel’s conscious-consumer chic.1. It’s stupidly expensive. The prices are not exactly student-friendly and I’m not sure I would be willing to pay £46 for a plain polyester sweatshirt (suspiciously similar to the type I was forced to wear at school) even if I had a real income.2. The ‘fitness’ clothes are completely impractical. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried the gym in a mesh bodysuit with a thong bottom, but I wouldn’t advise it. Also, all bodysuits on the website are modelled without bras underneath, including those made from sheer fabric… not exactly gym (or in-public) friendly.

3. Despite slogan t-shirts calling for the legalisation of gay marriage and the ‘sweatshop free’ label, there is something less than savoury about American Apparel. Founder and CEO Dov Charney has been involved in a string of sexual harassment lawsuits and in 2004, Jane magazine’s Claudine Ko reported that during an interview with Charney he received oral sex from a female employee and masturbated repeatedly.

4. I want to look at tights, not some girl’s arse. Not only do a significant proportion of the female models featured on American Apparel’s UK site look decidedly underage, but the sexualised poses and volume of flesh on show are wholly unnecessary when one considers both the context of the images and the product they are promoting. The ‘Sheer Luxe Cut-Out Pantyhose’ for £19 leave the entirety of the wearer’s bum exposed, and to put issues of design and comfort aside (because they look REALLY uncomfortable), I found myself asking why the accompanying slideshow of images needed to show the model bending over suggestively, with entirely bare breasts. There is no age restriction on accessing the site and interestingly enough, none of the male models are bending over, sucking their fingers or showing their bare bum cheeks.

5. You’re only hired if you look right. Charney’s comments regarding only employing the ‘right type of black girl’ are a particularly noxious example. Of course, this is not unique to American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch are a high profile example of a clothing retailer with a gross hiring practice, paying out $40 million in 2004 for refusing to give non-white applicants positions in-store. However, this gives lie to the progressive politics and the declaration that the company are ‘setting a new standard that others will follow’, found on their website.

6. Dov Charney doesn’t want his employees talking. In 2010 Gawker ran an article on American Apparel’s ‘At Will Employment Confidentiality Agreement’ which introduces a penalty of $1,000,000 for any American Apparel worker who speaks to the media or disparages Charney in public or online. The agreement also stipulates that when out and about, employees should not discuss the company at a volume that ‘reasonably could be overheard by a third party’. So basically, you have to whisper. Such measures certainly suggest that the company has something to hide.

Despite the seething mass of corporate paranoia, rampant misogyny and disturbing sexualisation of young models displayed by American Apparel, I still believe that we can have clothing companies that pay their workers a fair wage without negating this achievement through other types of unethical behaviour. But until Charney makes substantial changes to the way his clothing empire operates, the lurex shine has definitely worn off American Apparel.