He homogenized the hipster look, popularized porny ads, and championed local manufacturing.
With its pop-sleaze aesthetic, American Apparel has helped shape (and ironically undercut) the standard tropes of fashion culture. As chairman and CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney embraced taboo subjects, traded in nostalgia, and pumped out designs using skin-tight spandex and plenty of sheer fabric. He played with perversity in the brand’s clothes and advertising. He took the hipster look mainstream and homogenized it.
Charney was canned this week from the company he founded in 1998. The decision grew out of an “ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct,” the brand said in a statement. Charney, who held the position for 25 years, sold sleaze—in ways both savvy and ugly. Savvy was how he let the suggestion of impropriety pervade the company’s designs, and then amped it up while throwing in plenty of nostalgia. There’s little in those stores that doesn’t speak to teenage hormones fully raging, figuring out what to wear to the pool party and what will enable a hook-up. It’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High come to life.
… Even if you never set foot in an American Apparel store, you’re probably familiar with its soft-core ads plastered on billboards and buses. This sexual libertarianism came from the top down. Charney embraced the fact that sex sells in a more explicitly frank (and provocative) way than other major retailers. One ad, which featured Charney posing with employees, was captioned “in bed with the boss.”