By Xander Balwit
Catlin Speak (Portland, Oregon)
I have not been able to transcend the influence of American Apparel. I shop at American Apparel, I lust after their models, and I have even checked out the company’s stock.
But as a person who holds businesspeople to high standards, I am ashamed that I ever shopped at American Apparel under the regime of former CEO Dov Charney.
Dov Charney is a compelling business proprietor and there are many things I admire about him. In 2011, however, headlines about his admirable convictions of how awful sweatshop labor and outsources are gave way to headlines about sexual harassment. Two women, Kimbra Lo and Irene Morales, filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Charney. The media and Charney’s legal team have disputed their claims often and entirely.
What I am upset with is the treatment of the issue by the news media, especially when the only thing Charney did fully disclose was that as the CEO of an esteemed company, he was having sexual relationships with employees as young as 18.
Due to a litany of settlements, there appears to be no way to tell definitively if the sexual assault allegations were true. Due to this fact, the media seems to have felt free to speculate.
I don’t know how independent reporter Gavin McInnes could say that the women “sounded more like predatorial prostitutes than victims to me.” It is astounding that he doesn’t condemn the behavior of a business exemplar, who at the time was worth $550 million dollars, who is exchanging sexual messages with 18-year-old girls. Charney’s behavior has consistently been infantile. There are reports of him going to business meetings in his underwear and walking around the headquarters naked. There are even allegations of him masturbating in front of a reporter.
The Guardian shifted the question away from the intricacies of the case and on to a larger question. They created a poll asking what people thought was more important in a company, ethical leadership or ethical goods. I was surprised and horrified that 68 percent of people think ethically produced clothes are more important. 68 percent might not cringe to think that even if the socks and hoodies they are buying are fair trade and fair wage, they are buying them from a wealthy exploitative pervert.
How does a man in a position of insurmountable power having sexual conduct with employees over 20 years younger not tarnish the fact that the clothes are made in LA by workers making an average of 12 bucks an hour?
The vision of a fairly made American clothing company cannot be lead by someone sexually exploitative and infantile and retain its mission’s wholesomeness.
It is with great smugness and restored faith that I now read headlines like, “American Apparel Updates Ethics Code after Ousting Charney” and “American Apparel Adds Sex-harassment Rules after Firing CEO.”
Photo Credit: ispira.blog