In Memoriam: Dead Fashion Brands

Ding dong, American Apparel’s dead. Well not quite, but the brand as we know it is on its way to the fashion grave. It was always the brand that young hipsters, party kids, and college kids sought out for fashionable basics with a little something extra. Like leggings, but liquid metallic leggings. And bodysuits, but bodysuits with a deep v-cut that barely covered your areolas. Their clothes were provocative and sexy—plus everything was made in the United States! People went bananas for it. That all changed when people discovered that founder Dov Charney was a less than stand-up dude. Maybe American Apparel wasn’t so ethical after all! The company ditched Charney in 2014, but new leadership apparently wasn’t enough to save the brand, which hadn’t made a profit since 2009.

With the surge of fast fashion, many people no longer wanted to spend $50 on a hoodie when they could get close to the same thing at H&M for $15. American Apparel held on for a few more years, until this January when Gildan Activewear purchased the company in a bankruptcy auction. Company factories have shut down and all 110 of its stores are closing.

Along with American Apparel, teen retailer Wet Seal also announced that it would be closing all of its stores earlier this year after 55 years of being in business. Wet Seal used to be a mall staple. Even if you never shopped at one, you could count on seeing its storefront on your way to the food court. So if you still have a Wet Seal gift card wedged in the back of your wallet from your aunt three Christmases ago, now would be the time to use it.

Speaking of teen retailers, the bankruptcy of Betsey Johnson in 2012 hit me particularly hard. Yes, Betsey Johnson (the brand & person) still exists. You can still purchase BJ (unfortunate initials, I know) online and at department stores like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor. However, Betsey Johnson is no longer in its full mid-aughts glory which saw suburban teenage girls begging their parents to buy them bedazzled tulle cocktail dresses for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit.

Going into one of their boutiques was a sensory explosion of neon pink and leopard print. Plus, when you tried on their frilly, sequined dresses they gave you matching heels to wear. Even though I wore a terrible school uniform and poorly applied MAC kohl eyeliner back then, I felt like I received celebrity treatment in the Betsey Johnson boutique in my mall. Granted, I had no concept of commission at this point, but that’s neither here nor there.

And perhaps the most tragic demise: Limited Too. In 2008, Limited Too was rebranded as the less expensive chain Justice, and in that moment I knew that I was no longer a child. Limited Too holds a special place in my heart: it’s where I bought my first training bras, where I bought glitter encrusted tees depicting monkeys or softballs or puppies, and where I bought Hilary Duff’s Christmas album Santa Claus Lane. So even though I had outgrown Limited Too before its rebranding, I was still saddened by the news.

That is until last year when Limited Too came back! However, it’s just not the same. Sure, it’s been over a decade since I could fit into their clothes. That aside, Limited Too clothing is now only sold through online retailers like Zulily and Amazon. But is Limited Too really Limited Too without Neopet plush toys and Jesse McCartney blaring in the background?

Limited Too and Betsey Johnson prove that brands can be resurrected from the dead, albeit in new shapes and forms. As of now, Gildan Activewear has said they plan to sell a much smaller American Apparel product line to the wholesale market. The American Apparel name is technically here to stay, but the brand as consumers know it is on its last breath.

Art by: Shufan Ren