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Dov Charney, the man who founded American Apparel in 1989, was officially ousted as the company’s chairman on Wednesday. Given his troubled history with sexual misconduct and illegal hiring activities, it was only a matter of time before he was let go.
Here, we look back at the (many) warning signs that should have probably led to his firing a lot sooner.
1. In 2008, the former American Apparel CEO was profiled in the now-shuttered Conde Nast Portfolio, where he sounded as sleazy as he seems. “Fashion is about sexuality,” he told the glossy. “It’s hard to be fashionable and sanitize it and take the sexuality out of it. It’s tasteful. It’s utility — it’s not Frederick’s of Hollywood. It has to make you feel attractive. Sex makes you feel beautiful or handsome.” Yeah, we can tell, based on all the half-naked American Apparel ads we’ve seen.
2. Before that, Claudine Ko penned a profile about him in Jane magazine, where he openly masturbated in front of her during their interview. “Masturbation in front of women is underrated,” said Charney during their interview. “It’s much easier on the woman. She gets to watch; it’s a sensual experience that doesn’t involve a man violating a woman, yet once the man has his release, it’s over and you can talk to the guy.” And yes, he has had serious relationships with his employees — three at the time the story was published in 2004.
3. During an interview with CNBC reporter Jane Wells, Charney said a lot of the sex-based lawsuits brought against him are “a testimony to my success, though, the fact that I’m a target for baseless lawsuits.” Yes, he was being serious.
4. In a letter obtained by Gawker in 2009, an American Apparel store manager said Charney didn’t want to have “ugly people” as his employees. “He is tightening the AA ‘aesthetic,’ and anyone that he deems not good-looking enough to work there is encouraged to be fired,” read the letter. Charney denied the claim, telling The Globe and Mail that his company hires employees enthusiastic about fashion, “but this does not necessarily mean they have to be physically attractive.”
5. Over the years, American Apparel’s ads have been known for its controversial ads. One particular campaign led Woody Allen to sue the company for “a blatant misappropriation and commercial use” while portraying the director as a Hasidic Jew with Yiddish text that translated to “the holy rebbe.” Another ad featured a topless model for the brand’s holiday ads, while another saw a gray-haired older woman posing with her legs spread wide wearing a cable knit sweater over a leotard and purple tights.
6. In 2011, he was sued for forcing a then-18-year-old female employee, Irene Morales, into performing sexual acts. However, the lawsuit ended up being thrown out out by a Brooklyn judge. The following year, Charney was accused of trying to choke a former manager from the Malibu store and throwing dirt at him. According to the lawsuit, Charney also called the male employee a “fag” and a “wannabe Jew.” (Charney is Jewish.)
7. The company has also been sued for racial discrimination, in which an employee named Christopher Renfro sued the store for consistently being called the n-word by a co-worker. The lawsuit was settled in favor of Renfro.
8. Charney hired illegal immigrants in the past and was forced to fire 1,800 employees after a federal agency conducted an audit that found discrepancies in the documents required for their employment.
9. American Apparel nearly declared bankruptcy under Charney’s direction, with a $86 million loss in 2010. In 2011, WWD reported that the company experienced a net loss of $86.3 million, with only $5.3 million in the bank. The L.A.-based brand was saved in 2012 when it was announced that billionaire George Soros would provide an $80 million credit line. But that doesn’t mean it has profited, as the L.A. Times reported that the company has lost nearly $270 billion since 2008.
10. Though his business model had the “Made in America” mentality, Charney revealed to Buzzfeed that he doesn’t actually believe in the cause. “I don’t believe in ‘made in U.S.A.,’ really, but that’s a secret,” he told writer Sapna Maheshwari in February. “You can say I said it’s off the record, but then you can say I said it’s off the record, and say it. Because it’s ‘off the record’ hypothetically speaking, OK?” Uh, basically, you just can’t trust the man.
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