Although the popular clothing company, American Apparel, has been under fire for a long time over the decisions of its founder, Dov Charney, the recent money loss may be finally end his reign over the company. Charney has been accused of using company funds, sexually harassing employees and models and also just generally giving the company a bad image. While he was the founder of the company, it is now trading publicly and shareholders are beginning to lose faith in his practices. Recent million dollar losses have even the most major shareholders scared. An investment firm is interested in helping the company recover losses but they are wary of Charney’s ways and practices.
One of the most significant factors for investors is the way that Charney has been representing the company to the media. The advertisments he oversees and photographs are often incredibly provocative and have been banned overseas for exploiting young women. American Apparel definitely has a very distinct style: a kind of throwback to 80s and 90s sportswear. It has started a trend that has absolutely swept the fashion world, especially targeting young men and women in colleges and universities. A former Tufts student himself, Charney started the company while attending the school and seems to draw inspiration from the young collegiate world. Unfortunately, he is allegedly a highly sexual and inappropriate person. Many have called for his resignation for these practice but the money losses may be what finally puts an end to Charney’s reign.
The type of photography he uses in his images and on store mannequins is preached as a new form of liberation for women and has even spawned the term “porn-chic”. Unfortunately, to achieve this look, the models must be very young and very, very thin. Models has been accused of looking “battered” in Charney’s images and a LA Times article recently called Charney’s vision similar to posing women as sex workers in third world countries. In interviews for magazines and newspapers Charney does not deny these accusations, but instead touts his own form of feminism. During a Jane magazine interview he reportedly masturbated seven or eight times in front of the reporter and justified it to her as “good for her,” because now he had achieved “sexual release” and can talk more frankly with her about business.
Even animals look uncomfortable in Charney’s images. Puppies are often used to cover up parts of models or enhance the image and they look very sad and battered themselves. While this has turned into a popular style of photography and fashion, the sexual harrassment claims against Charney are making the company think twice about continuing to use his vision as the primary form of representing the company. Executives and shareholders understand that Charney is instrumental in creating this brand, but if he refuses to change his practices the company may gather more bad press than good advertising.
Models and employees of the stores are often young women or young men; the kind of people who are the target market for the company’s clothing. Sexual harrassment claims from employees and models alike are getting expensive for the company, especially because many of the emloyees and models are minors. These claims are costing the company money and these losses for American Apparel may finally end Charney’s reign. In the imagery the extremely thin young girls are often placed in compromising positions with other models or sometimes allegedly even Charney himself. Many have found this kind of imagery to be exploitative of young women and worry about the kind of example it is setting for impressionable young girls who want to look as high-fashion as these models. The models in the images are also frequently only wearing a singular piece of clothing which is never covering their entire bodies. Just socks or underwear, these women are shot “artistically” to verge on pornography without actually crossing the line. Charney has been in charge for a long time at American Apparel but his attitude coupled with the money loss may end his reign there.
By Sindhu Reddy