Breaking News: American Apparel CEO Dov Charney is still a total creep

Categories: Fashion, Media
Nice Myspace photo, Charn.
​For the second time in a month, a multi-million dollar sexual harassment and assault lawsuit against American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney has surfaced, this time by four former employees. This is hardly a surprise, but there is something to be said for the fact that such allegations are finally gathering mainstream media attention in 2011 -- almost seven years after Jane Magazine ran Claudine Ko's back-of-the-house exposé on Dov's sexually-invasive workplace antics. Looking at coverage of Charney's exploits now (especially through the eye of a news-lite program like The Today Show), it feels like this should be a duh moment for everyone; It's not like this guy hasn't been a terrorizing pervert from the get-go. From interviews to depositions, Charney has never been shy about the fact that sexual gratification is an integral part of his business model. Perhaps it's just that Ko's piece blew the lid off of the American Apparel sex-working environment too soon -- before the company's artificially-lit stores and crotch-shot advertising had a chance to become as well known as they are in 2011.

Or, could it be that consumers were so taken by Charney's pro-fair labor stance that his predatory behavior towards women could be glossed over? That certainly was the case for me. I've purchased from both the company's "Legalize LA" and "Legalize Gay" lines, because the statements aligned with my own beliefs. But did I think about the fact that wearing these shirts in public also meant that I was supporting a man who had built his empire on the exploitation and terrorization of his non-factory employees? The answer would be an embarrassingly passive "no."

Even after I hearing personal horror stories from former employees of American Apparel -- situations involving Charney going so far as to defecate in front of a woman he had just hired -- I still shopped there. My guess is that the moral issues behind the company didn't so much as cross the minds of most consumers anyway. A disconnection between what we buy and its origins seems like a fairly common mindset, especially in a time when a company like the socially-conscious TOMS is the exception, not the rule.

As these lawsuits unfold, it will be interesting to watch how the American Apparel empire weathers the storm -- or ultimately falls. While Charney fights back under the premise of extortion, we will continue to stare at the private areas of the underage-looking women in his advertisements who are also on the end of this lawsuit. But will it matter if Charney wins or loses? Or will we buy the tube socks he peddles regardless?

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Den Hickey
Den Hickey

Well, Charney proves that you can actually make a profit with decent treatment and wages etc.. for your employees.. so long as you don't do really stupid things like.. I dunno... opening two stores only a few blocks from each other on the most expensive street to own a store on in the whole city( Newbury Street in Boston) or using photos of famous people without permission for your billboards. So, what the world needs is for someone to start up a very similar franchise... in fact pretty much the same (though I would prefer at least some of the clothing to be for people who aren't thin as rails. I have slightly broad shoulders, so it would be nice if a large Tshirt's sleeves didn't end right at my freaking armpits) but without Dov Charney and without the sexual harassment and exploitation.

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