American Apparel To Open New Harvard Square Location

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Andrea M. Mayrose

American Apparel will soon open a store on Brattle Street in the location formerly occupied by Harnett’s.

Those looking for an edgier alternative to the Gap—and some risque marketing—will have American Apparel to turn to when they return to the Square this fall.

American Apparel, a clothing supplier known for its solid-colored T-shirts and advertisements featuring sparsely clad hipsters, will open a store on Brattle Street in early August. The store will be located in the space previously occupied by Harnett’s, a natural health and beauty products supplier.

Miguel McKelvey, the architect and project manager for the new location, said that the company seeks out older, historical buildings—not strip malls—for their stores.

“We try to make each store interesting in and of itself,” McKelvey said. “[The company] gives us the freedom to make all of the stores slightly different and to retain the character of the place we’re going into.”

McKelvey said that American Apparel also tries to create an environment that will encourage people to stop in on a whim. “We really think about the store as a kind of neighborhood store that you pop into when you’re looking for a basic T-shirt or underwear,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a place you need to go to shop.”

Because the American Apparel on Newbury Street is located in an area known for shopping, McKelvey said the company was interested in opening a store in an area that was a little more “neighborhoody.”

McKelvey said the store will target an “educated, sophisticated, urban” clientele, who are youthful “not necessarily in age but definitely in spirit” and think “about where they shop and what kind of companies they support.”

The executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, Denise Jillson, said that the Association was “thrilled” that American Apparel was opening a store in the Square.

“American Apparel is very cool, very hip,” Jillson said, adding that students have requested more clothing stores for a “younger crowd.”

She also said that the business philosophy of American Apparel, whose web site says it offers the highest wages in the garment industry, paid time off, and affordable health care to all its employees, “works well in Cambridge.”

Jinny Nathans, president of the Harvard Square Defense Fund, said that American Apparel had contacted the Fund to discuss the store’s appearance.

“They’re a chain, which is not great for the Square, but their signage appears to not be too obtrusive,” Nathans said.

The Fund has encouraged American Apparel to paint a mural on the blank side of the building facing Church Street, she said.

—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at