American Apparel fires Dov Charney: Founder let go after ‘misconduct’ inquiry
Board votes unanimously to remove him and says company is ‘larger than any one individual’
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, was published in 2014.
Thursday 19 June 2014
Dov Charney created American Apparel, the clothing retailer whose iconic advertisements are known not so much for faces, as bodies. But this week he was removed from his role as CEO by the brand’s board of directors, as the result of an internal investigation into his alleged misconduct.
Claims of sexual harassment and other bad workplace behaviour have long pursued the 45-year-old American Apparel founder. The details of the investigation have not been disclosed, but the board said they had voted unanimously to replace Mr Charney as the company’s chairman, and “to terminate his employment as President and CEO for cause.”
Allan Mayer, who has been appointed co-chairman of the board, said in a statement: “We take no joy in this, but the board felt it was the right thing to do. Dov Charney created American Apparel, but the company has grown much larger than any one individual and we are confident that its greatest days are still ahead.”
Born in Montreal, Mr Charney first began importing US-made T-shirts to Canada as a high-school student. In 1997 he moved to Los Angeles to manufacture his own garments for wholesale, and in 2003 American Apparel launched its first retail outlets. By the following year, it had opened a UK shop, on London’s Carnaby Street. Today, there are American Apparel outlets in 20 countries.
READ MORE: Why American Apparel is going out of fashion
The company earned praise for its commitment to manufacturing in the USA, eschewing overseas sweatshops to make all its clothing at its factory headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Yet it has also endured controversies. In 2009, Mr Charney was obliged to dismiss more than a quarter of his workforce after they were found to be lacking the necessary immigration documents.
The brand’s signature risqué advertising has raised eyebrows, as have longstanding rumours about Mr Charney’s lewd behaviour. He is said to buy sex toys for his employees as gifts and to stride around the factory floor wearing only underpants.
In 2011, four female former employees filed a lawsuit accusing Mr Charney of sexual harassment, including claims that he sexually assaulted one of them during a job interview.
The following year he was accused of physically and verbally assaulting one of his store managers in a wrongful termination suit. At the time, Mr Charney said it was “a testimony to my success… that I’m a target for baseless lawsuits”.
The suits were settled, and the firm publicly backed its founder in both cases.
Mr Charney has said that allegations he acted improperly are a “fiction”. None of the accusations have been proven.
Mr Mayer told the Los Angeles Times that the company’s internal investigation was launched earlier this year, when “new information came to light”.
Retail consultant Antony Karabus said Mr Charney had done an “amazing job in creating the brand”. He added: “But it often requires a different skill to take it to the next level.”
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