Fashion, Sex & Ethics: Dov Charney brings the hip US label American Apparel to Vienna
Erotic eco-fashion at affordable pricesNews.at
FORMAT: Sexy Fair Trade set to take Austria by storm
August 11, 2008
The 33m2 shop on the corner of West 4th Street and Broadway in New York is teeming with young men and women. They feel good in this snow white, futuristic shop with its booming rock music, perhaps because it offers more than "just" hip and inexpensive eco-fashion. One of the young men blatantly stares at the strikingly pretty shop assistants as they scurry around in their skimpy outfits and heavy make-up to greet and enquire in a sickly sweet voice: "Hi, how are you? Can I help you?"
So if you want to work at American Apparel (AA), you need the right measurements and of course the right age- a philosophy the company founder Dov Charney readily acknowledges. "Of course our staff is young, attractive and sexy. Sex is important to the brand." With the American Apparel label founded in 1997 the unconventional entrepreneur realised his American dream of wealth and fame in double-quick time becoming America's largest textile factory in just six years. Now AA is coming to Vienna's Mariahilfer Street in Austria.
Eco-fashion for the world
Bright yellow scarves and blood red pullovers light up the shelves of the international eco-boutique. The era of the eco-freak in grey jute sacks and itchy knitted jumpers is long gone. Eco-fashion is hip and very chic. Madonna, Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie's children only sleep in eco-nappies while designer Stella McCartney, condemned an eco-bourgeois, will only handle eco-cotton. Other fashion designers too are committed to a bizarre blend of coolness and ethics, creating fashion from environmentally friendly materials or even setting up ethical labels.
New eco-shop for Vienna Our own eco-freaks have been waiting for Austria's first AA shop for years now. Though Charney's exact plans have (still) not been divulged; looking at the expansion into other European cities, we can expect to see at least ten shops in the medium term. In Austria the brand will undoubtedly make big news, especially because other eco-fashion here is either too expensive or unhip.
Charney, on the other hand, stirs up the market with comparably inexpensive yet attractive cuts. "The label has a very good chance of success in Austria, as the combination of eco, ethics and sex is totally new. American Apparel stands for pesticide-free eco-cotton and manufactures items of clothing that fashion experts believed would never be a runner: simple round and v-neck t-shirts, short and long sleeved dresses, sweat shirts, hoodies, jogging pants, rain and wind jackets, leggings, ladies' and gents' underwear, belts, scarves, in short anything that falls in the basics category.
Unlike the competition though, the tag does not say Thailand, Taiwan or Vietnam, but "made in Downtown L. A.", which is not only politically correct, but also sounds more casual. Austria's fashion players can expect a storm from the US west coast. Alongside sport brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma in particular H&M, Zara and Mango will feel the arrival of the hip brand. The label is only marginally more expensive than H&M, Mango and Zara and sells t-shirts from 15 Euro.
Fair working conditions Staff in the Broadway store all run around in AA gear, with the girls clad in tight tops and mini-skirts and the lads donning casual t-shirts and white trousers. Getting a job at AA is not easy. Everyone wants to work for Charney- the pay is good and he has even been known to present staff with occasional gifts of company shares. His employees, most of whom are immigrants from Latin America, earn 13 dollars an hour which is more than double the American minimum hourly wage. The Canadian also pays for health insurance, English classes and often even massage and yoga classes.
Charney's recipe for success is unusual, yet is fundamentally based on the time-tested formula "Sex sells". As the 39-year-old cheerfully points out, he would never have got where he is today were he a dear young chap. Because above all else American Apparel should be one thing: cool. And it is not cool to have a straitlaced boss running around the place in a grey suit, unless he looks like a porno producer from the seventies- with a thick moustache, sideburns, greasy hair and huge sunglasses.
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