After years of blatant overly sexualized advertising under former CEO Dov Charney, American Apparel is now turning the other cheek (pun intended). This change in direction has occurred in an attempt to attract millennials and recast the brand in a “positive, inclusive, and socially conscious light.” The label outlined its plan to take the brand from “chaotic to iconic” in a new presentation filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The move includes distancing the brand away from its racy ads of the past and towards a more inspiring, comprehensive strategy. This new move comes about during the legal battle between the former CEO and American Apparel Inc. On June 12th Charney sued the retailer and board member David Danziger alleging both parties defamed him in an attempt to keep him from winning the necessary votes to regain control of the company.
Last June American Apparel dethroned Charney as chairman and suspended him as chief executive, citing evidence of misuse of company funds and inappropriate behavior with employees. Charney has reportedly been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by employees, and its believed that the behavior went on for a while before the board decided to act. We live in a culture that excuses bad behavior by creative individuals. Artists, musicians and even business leaders with larger-than-life personalities garner respect for their ability to push the boundaries in their specific genres. However, there is a wide belief that people who push boundaries in one area of their lives often have a harder time respecting boundaries in other aspects of their lives. This belief can be used to justify harassment, assault and other harmful behaviors expressed by celebrities and other industry players. It’s one thing to shake our heads at someone else’s wild lifestyle, but turning a blind eye to behavior that crosses the line into non-consensual talk and action is a completely different animal that needs to be put down. Drama aside, this brand definitely needed a new look and I’m glad it’s finally happening. I can’t help but wonder if Dov Charney’s lack of boundaries had anything to do with the company’s super sexual advertising strategy. Hmmm. Let’s look at the label’s worst advertising blunders.
If there was a textbook example of the word “fail”, American Apparel’s advertising strategy would be it. Dov Charney has proven to be a sick son of a….*ahem*. Trouble just seems to follow him everywhere he goes and these troubles are mainly of a sexual nature. In 2011 Irene Morales, a former employee, accused him of making her his sex slave. She filed a lawsuit that sought $260 million dollars, but it was later thrown out in court because it was reported that Morales had allegedly sent dozens of nude photos of herself to Charney after she stopped working for American Apparel. The label’s board did find him guilty of allowing an employee to post nude photos of Morales that was supposedly authored by her. The blog harassed and defamed Morales, but more importantly ran in conflict with certain California laws that strictly forbid falsely impersonating others online. I just find it bizarre that someone would write a blog and post pictures of themselves and say crazy things like that….about themselves. You can read more about the whole debacle here. This scumbag has also reportedly been cited for masterbating in front of a Jane magazine reporter during an interview! He’s also been accused by ex employees of conducting business meetings in the nude. A video surfaced online of the former CEO dancing nude in the presence of two alleged female employees. American Apparel is one of those brands, like Urban Outfitters, that seemed to be so effortlessly chic and edgy to me but now it just makes me want to gag. This “new direction” is definitely a good idea, but it certainly won’t erase the damage Don Charney has done.