Embattled hipster retailer American Apparel fired its founder and CEO Dov Charney due to an “ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct,” the board of directors announced today. It must have been a very slow investigation. During the past decade, American Apparel’s progressive labor practices and its financial woes (although share prices jumped 20 percent post-ouster) were routinely overshadowed by Charney’s sexual misbehavior toward female retail employees.
There were always vocal critics of American Apparel’s sexually suggestive ad campaigns, but the first truly red flag was Claudine Ko’s 2004 Jane magazine profile of Charney. She’d hoped to report on the unusually fair garment-worker wages, but wound up having to remark upon the thing where Charney repeatedly and openly masturbated in front of her. The article also revealed that Charney slept with many of his favorite employees, causing “drama.” Meanwhile, the disgruntled ones tipped off reporters about the company’s draconian grooming standards and looks-based hiring practices, much of which reportedly came directly from Charney.
With his caddish reputation and hipster-icon status, Charney was the perfect 2000s villain, and Gawker seemed to delight in every sleazy morsel. Charney was kicked out of the tony boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall for pooping in his own cereal “so he could frame another kid,” one anonymous source told them. Another source claimed he ejaculated in his hot chocolate. (Either way, Charney definitely went to Choate.)
All of which got a lot less funny as Charney, far from chastened, continued racking up lawsuits. Over the next seven years he was sued for asking a female employee to pretend to masturbate for him, for pressuring an accountant to pad the books before taking the company public, for “misappropriating” Woody Allen’s image, and for allegedly sexually assaulting an 18-year-old employee. He lashed out at reporters who asked about the lawsuits.
For those who followed each mounting offense, today’s news comes as somewhat of a surprise. Things seemed to have more or less quieted down after four female employees sued Charney for undisclosed sexual harassment in 2011. But, as with the recent blowback against Terry Richardson — another mutton-chopped provocateur who ascended in the mid-2000s — maybe the better question is why everyone waited so long.