When it comes to employee relations, Dov Charney is DTF. As he explains to The Guardian, sleeping with people you work with is “unavoidable.” While this may seem shocking, he clarifies that “people you work with” doesn’t mean subordinates, but “creative equals,” though he doesn’t rule out any future possibilities.
Of course, this is the behavior that cost him his last company, American Apparel. When it broke from wholesale into the retail world in 2003, it was an industry darling and exploded from 3 stores in 2003 to over 200 in 5 years. That prestige quickly dissolved after the behavior of its CEO was made clear and he was ousted by his board of directors. The remains of the company were purchased by a Canadian firm and are currently being reconstructed.
Charney’s new company, creatively named “Los Angeles Apparel,” is based in South Los Angeles, the neighborhood formerly known as South Central. Much like downtown Los Angeles was in the early days of American Apparel, South Los Angeles is somewhat of a frontier town, with a tough reputation and deflated job market. It is certainly a frontier for disgraced CEOs seeking redemption. Charney is currently living in the factory and sleeping on a mattress, instead of staying in his insanely creepy concrete Silver Lake mansion. Like American Apparel, Los Angeles Apparel employs local people, many of whom are immigrants. This was always a point of pride for Charney, who is also a strong supporter of unions. This is probably why President Trump didn’t step in to save the 2200 employees of the factory at 6th and Alameda streets in downtown Los Angeles.
American Apparel, in its new form, is breaking from the values on which Charney founded the company. Its parent, Canada-based Gildan, is sending some manufacturing to plants in Nicaragua, Honduras, and China. Charney-run American Apparel also sourced its fabrics and yarns from mills in North Carolina, which is not something the new company will continue.
So far, Los Angeles Apparel’s advertising aesthetic is largely based around grainy, Instagram-filter photos Charney has taken of the company’s South LA home. Gone are the days of the Terry Richardson-esque 1980’s sleaze ads that created American Apparel’s notoriety and gave the world a window into the mind of Dov Charney.
From the clothing design side, Los Angeles Apparel is classic, to put it lightly. Imagine lots of fleece hoodies, tees, and short gym shorts. These have been branded “classic originals.” Charney does not claim that Los Angeles Apparel is a new concept, or that it is in any way innovative. He has described it as “a continuation of American Apparel.” The company is still selling wholesale, but retail and ecommerce will likely follow soon. The question everyone asks is whether or not past customers of American Apparel can forgive, but if Los Angeles Apparel doesn’t make a mark for itself soon, the question may be if past customers haven’t forgotten.