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Dov Charney, 32, Senior Partner, American ApparelThe Counselor
You're not going to like this. Dov Charney got his start in this business by selling boot-leg Brian Adams T-shirts on the street of Montreal when he was in high school. Then he went legit sort of trying to run his business from his dorm room at Tufts University. But he gave upon college mid-way through his senior year, jumping into the promotional apparel business with booth feet. Now, 14 years later, he's making a name for himself in the industry due directly to his two loves: The female form and the basic T-shirt.
"I always loved a nice American white T-shirt fresh out of the dryer," Charney says. "I loved how it felt and I loved what it stood for. That's why I make the best T-shirts I can." This evidenced in American Apparel's attention-getting catalogs with the Vogue-like photography and the hip, street-chic design of the firm's clothes. You won't find any golf shirts here; we're talking babydoll tees and skimpy, "don't-you-wish-pal" halters and sexy thongs and panties with models to match. This is why we believe him when he points to "feminizing the blank T-shirt industry" as his greatest achievement to date. Dov has no time for the safety of uninspired uniformity that comes with clothing the masses; he concerns himself only with designing and creating apparel for those with fashion flair and the guts to flaunt it. "If you buy 1,000 extra-large T-shirts, you're only catering to overweight people with no sense of style ... not the young, hip person," he said in his usual candid fashion in a recent ADvantages article. No surprise, then, that Charney believes his age and unconventional attitude work to his advantage because, as he says, "most guys in this industry have an antiquated view of what this industry should be." His business philosophy: "Design is key," he says, adding that his future plans include nothing short of world domination. "Like Starbucks did for coffee, I want American Apparel to do for T-shirts."
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