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Dov Charney
The Book Los Angeles
October 2001

"Fuck Guess?" raves Dov Charney. "Every time they decide the hem is wrong on an order they've placed and the contractor is forced to eat it, somebody can't make payroll." Canadian born Charney, a wound-up spring waiting to get sprung, a thin, intense 32-year old, is the brains behind the $25 million T-shirt operation (dba) American Apparel, famous for its female form flattering Ts. Charney is a maverick. He is no longer doing "private label" arrangements for partners like Guess?. He's going it alone, and bypassing the "see, hear and speak no evil" world of sweatshops. AA makes its own fabric, cuts it, sews it, (okay, they send it out of for dyeing), markets the finished product and delivers, too. His legion of sewers and apparel workers enjoy proper lighting, ventilation, updated machinery, safety systems, lockers, and microwaves. A medical checkup Winnebago drops by every Monday for folks not feeling so good. A yoga room is also in the works. "We're committed to the wellness of our employees. If not, what 's to separate us from any sweatshop?" And they're not the only ones enjoying the company's enlightened benevolence. Local stray dogs roam the building, rescued by Dov and nursed back to health by himself and his staff of hotties. "What we are is a depot for promotional T-shirts," he asserts. And when he says depot, he means it, as the factory is housed in the old Southern Pacific Railroad building, at the downtown junction of Bay Street and Central Ave.

"The concept dates back—to colonial times," he notes. "In Quebec it's known as a depanneur - a kind of convenience store." Moving mass quantities of a clothing basic requires a driving concept. And his hip, sexy, multiethnic models shot on rooftops against antennae and skyscraper backdrops, as seen in AA's catalogue or on its Web site (American Apparel.net) are definitely of the multicultural moment. Charney's on a mission to revamp an industry known for its seamy underside. Is this any way to run a schmatta house? " I come from Montreal. It's a progressive society, more compassionate with things like socialized medicine. So I think it makes a difference if you care and treat your people well."