Dov Charney of American Apparel

Mimi ON Nov 27, 2008 AT 2:30 pm

Dov Charney knows that sex sells, and the über trendy fashion mogul has been banking on that idea since 2003 when he opened his first American Apparel store. Whether it be for his insistence on the ethical production of his Californian manufactured clothing or his sharp business acumen, Charney is a designer who sparks intrigue and excitement; someone whom The Economist referred to as “a brilliant businessman, an amateur pornographer, a Jewish hustler and a man with a social mission”.

Nephew of famed architect Moshe Safdie, Charney first started a version of today’s American Apparel in 1989 but was forced to shut it down when the company went bankrupt in 1996. In 1998 he re-established American Apparel in an 800,000 square-foot warehouse located in LA.

Charney first gained fame with the way he conducted business, specifically how he treated garment workers. He developed a system of performance-rated pay, which means some employees now make almost double the current California minimum wage of $6.75. He strives to keep his employees happy but claims it is not a fully altruistic move, explaining he is a fan of capitalism and keeping workers pleased lowers the turnover rate. His move towards higher pay and other exceptional benefits for his garment manufacturers, including on-site masseurs and free English lessons, have led to much praise from anti-sweat shop activists over the years.

American Apparel clothing has a distinct 80s dance feel about it. The label offers skin tight dresses in a range of colourful stretch jersey, as well as leggings in various stretch, Lycra, prints and colours. Popular with the ironic “New Rave” set, American Apparel is now gaining mainstream popularity, after opening a series of stores worldwide.

Despite his philanthropic character, Charney certainly enjoys courting controversy. He has been known to conduct interviews in his underwear and has conducted more than one sexual relationship with an employee. Three employees sued him for sexual harassment; two of these claims were eventually dropped. He also claims responsibility for the scantily clad models, featured in his advertisements. Charney has been an amateur photographer since he was a child and now takes all the pictures for American Apparel advertising campaigns, using his employees and friends to pose for the pictures and also accepts pictures from fans that send them in.

American Apparel Creator Dov Charney

American Apparel Creator Dov Charney

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