Last week, the now-former American Apparel CEO was ousted by his company’s board — on grounds of breaching fiduciary duty, violating company policy, and misuse of corporate assets. Now, Charney is alleging wrongful termination, and is threatening to sue.
There’s a general feeling that Charney’s firing was a long time coming. The Cut spoke with American Apparel employees who say they are surprised Charney wasn’t fired sooner. Even at the retail level, workers say they regularly saw strange decisions from on high: capricious choices, dysfunctional infrastructure, and the rollout of questionable products. Employees we spoke with said Charney’s firing was the best thing that could have happened for the company — and not just because their boss was sort of a jerk.
“I think it’s surprising he’s been there for as long as he has, given how much the company has struggled. I don’t think anyone is too sad to see him go. It’s just kind of surreal. Even at my low level, employees think [Dov’s decisions] are not pragmatic choices and seem like they are actively losing the company money. His decisions in hiring are very odd. We interact with people in the corporate office pretty frequently, and there are a lot of truly incompetent people. Also, I think some of the products that are being made don’t seem to make a lot of sense. Employees will often say, ‘Why are we making this? This is crazy. No one is going to buy this.’ If someone steps in without him there to drive the weird decisions I think it could recover, because it is a strong brand.” —Backstock Associate
“I saw the news through my co-worker’s Instagram post with the hashtag RIP. To me, it wasn’t really a surprise. It was like, ‘Oh, okay, this finally happened.’ I’m hoping they will get their money situation figured out. We didn’t have an alarm system at my store for like three months, which was kind of sketch. I would be worried if I had that much merchandise in a store. I also think they need to focus more on the quality of the product rather than reaching people through social media. We’re making a bunch of rayon skirts, and I feel like they’re not really well-made. We have a bunch of patterned things, and the patterns don’t match up on the seams. It doesn’t make sense — if you took a little more time to match the pattern, people would want to buy it more. Before the clothes kind of sold themselves, and now I feel like they are just making a bunch of stuff like one style in a billion colors rather than making certain things that are really well-made that people would want to spend their money on.” —Store Manager
“I think they made a good decision, getting rid of him, because there are a lot of flaws in the company. There are a lot of careless mistakes being made that don’t need to happen. When customers order online, we ship orders from the store rather than the factory. I’ve seen employees send the wrong item out a lot. Or a customer will come into the store, and what they bought will still have the sensor on it because someone forgot to take it off. It also seems like there is a lot of runaround with the inventory. We’ll also receive new items in our shipment from the factory, and it will be, like, already damaged, or it will be tagged wrong, or it won’t be tagged at all. The stores will also transfer items between themselves, if one store has excess — but sometimes we’ll get specific items in our shipment and then the following day they’ll send us an email to transfer the same exact items to a different store. That will bring our inventory down to zero, and they’ll end up having to ship us the items again anyway. It doesn’t really seem like a big deal, but throughout our daily processes it will really hinder progress and slow us down. We’ll address this stuff on the weekly company conference call and then nothing will happen.” —Backstock Associate
“It’s going to be strange to have American Apparel without Dov Charney, but I think, overall, it will end up being a good thing. It will help us eliminate unnecessary waste. He has always struck me as a small-business owner. I have worked for small-business owners, and they are always conscious of how every cent is spent, and often overmanaging in certain areas. We are not a small business anymore, but he was still kind of operating in that capacity. There needs to be a lot less centralization of power. It was kind of exciting to have him involved because he would open himself up to suggestions, and anybody in the company could talk to him and tell him about an idea they had. But based on the conference calls I was on, he was often looking at the small picture when maybe he should have been looking at the big picture.” —Store Manager
“I heard about him leaving in the middle of my shift. I think it’s about time. I have heard a lot of stories about him and how very disrespectful, and just how much of an asshole, he can be. It sucks that they took his store away from him, but he wasn’t really kind to his employees. Whenever he comes to New York, everyone is super-scared because he’ll just stay stuff that’s like, ’Whoa.’ But I think it will be better, to be honest. It can’t get any worse than this, when it comes to our boss-boss. We’re not really doing good with sales. Last year we made a whole bunch of money, and we just haven’t been meeting goals lately. So I just hope things get better — it can’t get any worse.” —Retail Associate