American Apparel takes its wares to market

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The Independent Online

American Apparel, the retail sensation with its distinctive boldly coloured clothing and its ethical manufacturing policy, is going public in a deal that values the company at $382.5m (£194m).

The Los Angeles company began life as a T-shirt manufacturer in 1997 and has grown to run 143 stores in 11 countries, including three in London, where young shoppers are attracted by its boast that all clothes are made in downtown LA by workers on twice the minimum wage.

The company's acquisition yesterday by a publicly quoted cash shell marks the Wall Street debut for American Apparel's eccentric founder, Dov Charney, dubbed "the Hugh Hefner of retail" for his habit of being photographed in companyadvertising campaigns alongside provocatively posed and scantily-clad young women.

While Mr Charney has suffered persistent claims of sexual harassment - including claims that he interviewed female recruits in his underwear - the company has gained plaudits for offering workers a health plan and free English classes. Mr Charney denies the sexual harassment claims.

Endeavor Acquisition is buying American Apparel for $244m, assuming $110m of debt and creating a bonus pot for workers. The cash raised will be used to fund expansion with new stores.

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