Hipsters love American Apparel almost as much as they love their PBR, this documentary is largely about how the CEO of American Apparel operates his company differently than most other manufacturers of clothing. If there is one thing you will walk away knowing from this documentary, it’s that the CEO of American Apparel is one crazy human being.
No Sweat is an indie documentary about two Los Angeles based clothing manufacturers, American Apparel and SweatX, which are trying to take the sweat out of sweatshop. The film defines a sweatshop as “undocumented immigrants work for substandard wages with no breaks or benefits” and these two companies are changing these conditions. Aside from better wages and benefits, American Apparel provides massages for their factory workers and SweatX gives their Spanish workers English lessons.
While these two companies share similar goals, their business practices do not have a lot in common with each other. For example, SweatX pays it’s workers a flat fixed hourly rate where as American Apparel pays based on how much they produce an hour. Ben Coehn was the co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and he started SweatX with $2.5 Million from his venture capital fund. On the other hand, American Apparel was founded without any venture capital.
American Apparel had 50 employees making fabric in 1997 and has expanded to 3,000 employees by 2003. Today, they are the largest clothing manufacturer in the US and put out about a million shirts a week. The company is adored by hipsters and fashion snobs around the world.
Dov Charney CEO of American Apparel is not afraid to call what they did revolutionary to the garment industry. Dov can be described as loud mouthed, hyperactive, and often makes bold, if not arrogant, statements. Dov takes some shots at SweatX by calling it “a garage of propaganda to support Ben Coen as a forward thinker.” He even ironically calls Ben arrogant.
Let’s face it, sex sells and we are buying and since American Appeal’s marketing strategy is largely focused around sex appeal, it provokes a great deal of concerns. The film shows a UCLA Law student questioning Dov about sexual photos in the workplace. He is quick to defend himself and claims that the lawsuits brought against American Apparel are bogus.
Dov with his passion and craziness carries the film. It is not hard to capture him, it seems like you can just point the camera on him and let him speak his mind. The documentary should have been just about American Apparel rather than being about two different companies. The film spends more time talking about American Apparel and is far more interesting than SweatX. Thanks to Dov.
Towards the end of No Sweat, another negative side of American Apparel is brought up. One worker speaks out about the working conditions of the factory. For fear of losing their job, they do not show their face on film. They claim the workers are treated badly, despite the fact most of them like and worship Dov. Some employees do not take bathroom breaks because of the pressure to keep up with the manufacturing.
Because No Sweat is only 53 minutes long, it is almost too fast paced for it’s own good, making it difficult to discern what the real issue that the documentary is trying to exploit. It touches on a lot of different issues but does not bother to go in very deep on them. The documentary has plenty of shortfalls but remains entertaining enough to sit through largely due to Dov’s eccentric personality.