Oh, the stories I’ve heard about working at American Apparel. The “casting calls” instead of interviews; conference calls from Dov that felt figuratively endless, store visits from Dov that were literal handfuls; the employee discount that was almost always five-fingered; the mirrored table in the staff room that would have made Tony Montana proud. It’s the stories about American Apparel that have always been American Apparel’s most valued currency. The stories proved American Apparel was cool, hot, fun, funny, subversive, edgy, sexy, and if you had a problem with American Apparel then you were none of those things.
A very brief overview: The now 45-year-old Dov Charney founded American Apparel in 1991, a company with a slow burn masquerading as an overnight success. It took twelve years for Charney to move the company from wholesaling in Montreal to a vertically integrated retail empire, and by 2005 the company had produced over $200 million in revenue. Charney quickly became just as noticeable as the stores that were popping up everywhere, famous enough to have Fred Armisen play him on Saturday Night Live.
The stories about Dov Charney’s peculiar proclivities became rumours, and then the rumours became gossip, and then the gossip became fact, an inseparable truth from any other story on American Apparel. As the company grew and grew throughout the first decade of the millennium, Charney became legend, and not necessarily the bad, notorious kind; fawning profiles, like this 2000 one by Malcolm Gladwell, seemed charmed by a man so honestly leading his business by his boners. Business was booming despite—and maybe because of—these stories, so why fix what wasn’t broken?
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