People with Money: Please Stop Saving American Apparel

Oh for goodness sake, it looks like American Apparel and its CEO Dov Charney have secured yet another injection of neon spandex-clad life. Even after facing a year (or so … more so than not) of public image and financial troubles, it seems there’s nothing that can sink the AA ship and its ever-creepy captain.


Dov Charney pleasures himself in front of a Jane reporter. The borderline-illegal creepiness starts (well, continues).

June 2010 runs an exclusive story detailing the insane dress code required of AA employees (this is after they jump through the full-body photo requirement hoop to get hired). For example, ladies, watch what you put on your face. If  you put anything on your face: “Makeup is to be kept to a minimal — please take this very seriously. Liquid eyeliner, pencil eyeliner and eyeshadow are advised against; mascara must look very natural (ie. [sic] should not be clumpy or a color that does not compliment your skin and haircolor [sic]). Blush must not be overdone — should not have glitter or sparkles. Liquid foundation is prohibited (undereye [sic] concealer is understandable if it looks natural — ie. [sic] not clumpy or caked on, must match your skin tone). Please do not use a shiny gloss on your lips; any lipcolor [sic] must be subtle.”

Take that, anyone who likes (needs — me) eyeliner.

Dov Charney releases his phone number to the public and actually picks up.

(, in the interest of comparative reporting, puts together a list of dress-code comparisons between AA and 10 other retailers.)

March 2011

Dov Charney is hit with two sexual harassment lawsuits in one month. One of the suits names four former AA employees, three of which cannot disclose the nature of their cases, as they signed $1 million confidentiality agreements while employed with AA.

New York Times reporter Laura M. Holson writes about the case, “Gary E. Phelan, an employment law lawyer based in Westport, Conn., said that while it was common for employers to seek arbitration to settle disputes, asking someone like a store clerk to sign a confidentiality agreement was not routine. ‘That is a red flag,’ he said.

“‘Before this month, Mr. Charney had been sued at least four times since the mid-2000s, accused of creating what some women said was a sexually charged, hostile environment. Those suits were dismissed or settled,’ the company said.”

August 2011

AA launches “The Next Big Thing” contest, a campaign where visitors can vote on who they want to see as AA’s plus size model: “Think you are the Next BIG Thing? Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up. Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL! Show us what you’re workin’ with!”

The bigger story is, why did it take AA so long to make “plus” sizes? As so aptly points out, “…the average size of a woman in America is 12–14 (American Apparel’s XL is a size 12–14 equivalent, the website says).”

September 2011

Dallas-based peformance artist Nancy Upton wins AA’s “The Next Big Thing” contest — after entering only to spoof the competition. AA is none too thrilled at her antics and, once crowned the winner, Upton is ousted (grrrrreat headline for anyone who needs it) from her top spot because, “while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company,” says AA Creative Director Iris Alonzo.

After winning (then losing) the contest, Upton writes about her reasons for entering in the first place on The Daily Beast, “That’s when I finally put my finger on why I couldn’t get this ‘contest’ out of my head: American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.”

October 2011

Chief Business Development Officer Marty Staff leaves the brand, as does executive vice-president Adrian Kowalewski.

November 2011

Acting President Tom Casey quits.

… Meanwhile, AA financials are quickly deteriorating, as the brand faces an investigation by the SEC …

January 2012

The SEC lets AA off the hook and decides not to investigate further.

March 2012

Crystal Financial and George Soros extend an $80 million line of credit and effectively rescue AA from (almost certain) financial ruin.

And that brings us to today, and the near future, where we’ll have to put up with legs-spread-wide models for at least a few more months. Or years. We’ll see how long the credit lasts. But, hey, a fool and his money — am I right?