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Dov Charney
Legalize Los Angeles.
For years, U.S. fashion producer Dov Charney has demanded more rights for immigrants - today, April 10, 2006, he is demonstrating again.
Die Welt
Martin Dowideit
April 10, 2006

He gets involved: Dov Charney, head of the popular garment manufacturing company American Apparel New York - Today, when several hundred thousand people in the United States are again marching en masse for amnesty of illegal immigrants, many employees of Dov Charney's Los Angeles garment factory will be among the demonstrators.

"Finally, something is happening", says the 37-year old entrepreneur in an interview with "Die Welt". ""In some ways I consider myself an immigrant, and then again I don't," declares Charney. "I simply don't believe in borders."

This native Canadian established himself in downtown Los Angeles as the largest garment manufacturer producing exclusively in the United States. About 4000 workers are now employed by American Apparel. Charney operates outlets of his company, not only in the U.S., but also in Germany, Mexico and other countries. At this time, the company is about to open a store in Munich.

Those employees of American Apparel, who are demonstrating in the streets for the rights of immigrants, have the full support of their boss. "Without immigrants our company would not exist," says the entrepreneur, who for a long time was sporting a mustache that would seamlessly go over into his sideburns.

Two years ago, in an advertising photo, Charney had already expressed his conviction. Clad with just a T-shirt, he had a photo taken of his naked rear. A message on the shirt read: "Legalize Los Angeles".

This fashion label from California, did not, however, become well-known for its provocative advertising photos alone. Being an employer with ethical standards is also a sales tool. Case in point: Charney pays wages above the legal minimum and supports untrained immigrants with the view towards promoting them from sewing machine operator to higher positions in his company.

Another of his taboos is outsourcing, meaning the move to produce in low-wage Third World countries. The entire production process of this fashion label - T-shirts, polo shirts, sweats and skirts - is housed under one roof in downtown Los Angeles; that is design, manufacture and marketing. For that reason their shirts are slightly more expensive than those of the competition. Nevertheless, customers seem to like American Apparel's entirely solid colored merchandise, and are willing to pay a bit more for it; and that, in spite of the fact that you cannot see at first glance that your purchase was ethically correct, since the shirts do not have any company logo on them.

In the meantime, American Apparel has become a $250 million company, which not only sells garments in their own boutiques, but also to large buyers such as Donna Karan. Charney would not even be opposed to supply the U.S. Defense Department, which by law may only buy from U.S. producers. Unfortunately, says Charney, he has not yet been approached by them. Just because he does not share the Governments views regarding immigration, does not mean that he has to forgo doing business with them.

"Should the illegal immigrants be granted amnesty, the social arguments will become economical ones," is Charney's opinion. "After all, it's not only important to the immigrants to be legalized. It is just as important to the employers to be able to keep their employees." Although American Apparel is not employing any illegal immigrants, amnesty would be beneficial to many of their families and friends.

For now, it appears, the majority of unqualified workers in Los Angeles are without legal documents. Says Charney:" It cannot go on like this, no way".
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