Another Side of American Apparel

Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel, is not one to shy away from controversy. In fact, he actively pursues it, as his bordering on porn ad campaigns have well established. But now, Charney is going political in this political season.
According to The New York Times, Mr. Charney said American Apparel’s customers appreciate the company’s views on immigration. He said his customers were “borderless.” He named the company American Apparel, rather than “USA Apparel,” he said, on purpose.
“I think my Latino workers are American workers,” he said. “They’re from the Americas. We’re all here together.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. American Apparel did some contract work for me when they were on the East Coast, ca 1995.
    I spoke to Duv and I can say he is a trip.
    I was shocked to read this account In Utah This Week
    “Since opening his first American Apparel store in 2004, CEO Dov Charney has used provocative advertising to promote his brand. Controversy surrounded the apparel merchant with the porn ‘stache over allegations that Charney had consensual sex with his employees and models. A downpour of criticism hit when stories revealed that Charney masturbated several times during his interviews with a writer from Jane Magazine. The Hugh Hefner–esque CEO has also been famous for interviewing potential employees in his underwear, and has been known to give his staffers vibrators.”
    But I have also bought his product out of LA which is much higher quality.
    In Ad Design school they said “Sex Sells – but it sells Sex”
    In the case of his product I think it works. For the product is just a revealing finely knit film – that drapes Sex.

  2. A bold stance that, aside from the political aspect that is out of the scope of this blog, is likely to do absolutely nothing to impact sales either way.
    The plain fact it that no matter which side of the issue you are on, if you like the shirt you are going to buy it. All this does is make the CEO feel good about himself.
    I guess there is something to be said about that.

  3. @ daily biz –
    I disagree that this is merely an exercise in feeling good. Labor practices is a HUGE part of the AA brand. The no sweatshop thing is part of what attracted an audience in the first place. This immigration stance is a continuation of that theme.

  4. Right on, David. No matter what you think about Dov, he has his heart in the right place. I wish that there were more people in business in the US, doing what he is doing for workers. I buy the T-shirts because I like them and in turn I am supporting a company that pays there workers a fair wage and many happen to be immigrants to this country. And now he is the largest textile manufacturer in America, that should tell folks that there is money to be made in paying workers a fair wage, as well as locating themselves on our fair shores. Costco is another example of paying workers a living wage, well probably far above it, and they have relatively small turn over, because workers are happy. The CEO does not take a insane salary, and yes he does have large holdings in the public company. He has successfully resisted cutting labor costs, because he knows that’s what makes his company successful. As does Dov Charney.

  5. @ David: I disagree that AA’s stance on illegal immigration is at all the same as saying no sweatshop labor.
    First, there is a moral issue to being against sweatshops that just isn’t there in being for letting people come to America illegally to work for cheap in Dov’s company.
    Second, there is no groundswell of opinion for illegal immigration. Though all people should be treated fairly and with dignity, staking your company on a political position that does not have majority support like the sweatshop issue is a vanity gesture.
    And it won’t do anything for sales because it is not enough to get people to buy.
    It’s not a fair trade issue or even a labor issue, though American Apparel wants it to be. It is a political issue and people, by and large, don’t care what the politics of a company or a company’s founder are when they make purchase decisions.

  6. Immigration is a labor issue. And a moral issue.
    People do care about the politics in a brand. I know I do. I like to buy from people I like and I like people who have values that favor humans and the environment.