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Conscientious Capitalism: American Apparel's Pattern for Success
Res Magazine
Kiino Villand
July/August Issue 2003

While ferocious anti-capitalists might have fantasies of seeing the entire fashion industry simply vanish, Dov Charney is acting on other visions for improving the world. The founder and senior partner of the "Sweatshop Free" American Apparel engages in all manner of unconventional activity, such as paying factory workers fair wages and providing them with on-site health support, English classes, yoga workouts and massages. Making mass quantities of blank t-shirts, baby clothes and women's undergarments in a worker-friendly environment has led not only to increased productivity but to an increase in interest and sales — to the tune of $75 million, according to Charney, for 2003. Charney has found that paying close attention to quality and technical design, avoiding off-shore labor and treating his workers with respect allows him to create a superior product as well as a way to demonstrate that exploitation isn't required for profit, even in the US. Turning the conventional means of apparel manufacturing on its ear, he sees it all as part of a larger generational shift in behavior and philosophy. "Boomers are at the checkout and the next generation is about to make big changes," he says. "We are in a generational power shift in which world values are changing we're moving into an age of substance." We can only hope so.