}

Adventures in Charneyland II

Boooring

Or “ck’s most disappointing day. Ever.”

So Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel gave me a call the other day. We were shooting the shit and it turns out that he was heading to Montreal to do some hiring for his stores and to visit his parents and his Grandmother. So I asked him if it was ok if I tagged along and do the whole Dov Charney experience first hand, rather than experience it vicariously through various commenters on Jewlicious.

I was so hyped up! Based on what I’ve read I was expecting, I don’t know… sluts swinging from chandeliers, a line up of hot young women waiting to service interview with the CEO, drugs, porn, exploitation, boobies (Jewish and otherwise), basically Sodom of the North. And then I was going to document it all and blow open this whole Charney thing! I was further tantalized when Dov mentioned that the saucy Sona was going to be there as well, “helping out.”

What actually happened was decidedly different.

I got to Cours Mont Royale, an underground mall in downtown Montreal where Dov and his staff were busily interviewing about 40 people that showed up. The assembled looked to be between 18 and 25. They looked fresh faced and eager, not a porn model in sight. Those waiting to be interviewed were served a variety of snack items, like uh… Pepperidge Farms Goldfish, Pringles, bottled water, Fruitopia and uh… Lollipops. I took some pics, loitered around, asked some questions and kept waiting for the, you know, real festivities to begin. In the meantime, Sona and Dov were conducting interviews…

Afterwards, they invited me up to their home/office to hang out. I was thinking, “Allright! Now let the games begin!”

Yawn

The assembled staff then started going through Polaroids of people who had been interviewed, discussing their various merits. The Polaroids were tame and totally not salacious. I was so bored. Afterwards Sona started compiling employee hours and doing the Payroll using software from somewhere similar to Zenefits. I know. What an idea. The only friggin Coke in site was of the Cola variety and Dov just kept taking calls from various people talking about t-shirts. It was all BTO, taking care of business. No boobies, no exploitation, no drugs, no nothing. Yawn-O-Ramma.

I looked out the window (what else do you do when you’re bored?) directly into the former head office of Seagrams, straight into the office where founder Sam Bronfman built a gigantic liquor empire from a small bootlegging operation. I thought it was kind of ironic, you know the whole Jewish Montreal hustler thing, but I figured Sam would approve. I mean, whatever you think of Charney, at least he hasn’t gone into business with a French water company, losing $3.6 billion in the process. Yup, Sam would definitely approve.

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ck

Publisher at Jewlicious
Founder of Jewlicious? Publisher? Man I hate titles. I coined the name Jewlicious and I slave over the site. I live in Jerusalem and I need to get some breakfast.
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28 Comments

  1. Jobber

    7/20/2005 at 9:36 pm

    One of my passwords is apparelsucks. Apparel and Jews is very interesting. Apparel basically is the bedrock of the immoral decline of western civilization, or at the very least, it is at odds w/ Orthodox Judaism. I find it very sad when I see these men owners w. their Yamulkas selling low cut tops for women, the low cut jeans thing, the sexy tops. So I have mixed feelings about this. Of course a part of me wishes that I was at some higher level in Apparel, instead of at the filthy warehouse level, but that may may be changing soon. It is another example of the selective morality trait that has been discussed ad nauseum.

  2. Jobber

    7/20/2005 at 9:41 pm

    BTW, you should do a Jewlicious spread on the Levin family who is making life miserable for that miserable Junkie who killed their daughter. They are making him come to court cases in the hopes of eventually nailing him on a contempt of court charge and sending to jail for a few more months. The only problem w/ that is that he could kick the junkie habit in jail, it has happened w. for example David Crosby of CSNY. He owes them 25 mill. They think he has money somewhere but I doubt it, for what could he be paid based onhis noteriety? I can’t think of anything. He gets money from get this a girlfriend, now how does a woman allow herself to sleep w. this junkie?
    I am not sure if they want him to commit suicide or rather to suffer as a junkie and small time criminal, or would they want him to become a new person, give up heroin, make ammends. W/ the money he would give them, and he could if he had a tenth of a brain, write a book and use his noteriety on that way for some $ and sense. THis money would go to help battered women, and maybe Yeshiva ed. as well I wont’ go there.

  3. mesiach

    7/20/2005 at 10:02 pm

    Hey i know the girl in the first picture…where do i know her from? weird its like a trip…

  4. mesiach

    7/20/2005 at 10:05 pm

    do you think american apparel will make the tshirts i bought from shmatas ummmmm 7 months ago

  5. esther

    7/20/2005 at 10:12 pm

    Amazing the journalistic lengths you’re willing to go to to get both sides of the story…let no one call your endeavors unilateral or unprofessional. Just uncopyedited.

    Please fix the homophonic typo in paragraph 2. I beg of you. The other typos (onhis? ammends? noteriety, THis, wont’ among others…) I can live with. Well, not really, but it’ll hurt less if you do right by me with that first correction, at least…)

  6. george

    7/20/2005 at 10:20 pm

    i dunno, i think the typo adds color…

  7. judi

    7/21/2005 at 8:40 am

    ck, in the press world, that’s called a “photo op”. Expecting something unusual to happen on one of those is like expecting to find ham at a kosher deli- you gotta be kidding. I mean, the guy keeps a b/w wedding photo on the wall of the corporate apartment? No one who’s ever worked for a company with a corporate apartment would ever fall for that one.

    Having never once set foot in an aa store and not knowing anyone who’s ever been associated with DC or his company, I have to say this whole thing is a big yawn. Let it play out in the courts like it’s supposed to.

    That having been said, I need to ask the following things: does DC cover his head? did Sona think that admitting to PCP use in the original thread helped to make her case? I stopped reading after that, so I have no idea if drug use among aa employees has been addressed.

    Boring day at work so far…

  8. ck

    7/21/2005 at 11:31 am

    Actually the issue of DC and hats came up – apparently no. Charney rarely wears a hat. With respect to PCP use Sona was being facetious I believe. I mean I know degenerates, and I know serious drug users, and I just didn’t get that vibe at all. I did however get to see dov in his underwear as I left the AA apartment just before he and his gang sat down about to watch the aviator. The people in that B&W shot are his parents btw. His Mom is the sister of famed architect Moshe Safdie, the guy that did the urban planning for the city of Jerusalem with former Mayor Teddy Kolleck. Just sayin.

    Oh and it was my idea to show up and hang out, not his. I really didn’t get the sense it was all contrived. If it was, they went through a whole lotta trouble for some silly little blog.

  9. Katieb

    7/21/2005 at 9:54 pm

    Jobber, you just reminded me of something. I was in Manhattan shopping and wandered into a store targeted at young women (just assuming by the people that worked there) and after a short look around at all of the slutty clothes they offered I bought a below knee length skirt. As I was paying I noticed three different tzedakeh tins for Chabad. Turns out the owner is a Lubavitcher. Go figure.

  10. Rabbi Yonah

    7/21/2005 at 10:52 pm

    CK – Give the old Rabbi a calk if you have a moment. – We had a great experience buying he Jewlicious @ The Beach shirts from American Apparel. They have the best merchandise and good prices. The sensationalism aside CK, I doubted very much that a t-shirt empire was a front for anything other than an excentric yid. Its not like he is selling anything contraband. But as a tribute to the late gonzo Hunter S., your prose was exciting to read.

  11. Jobber

    7/21/2005 at 10:54 pm

    Yeah I don’t like it much. They will say they have 10-12 children I suppose. I also once saw a guy w/ a Yarmulka doing the construction work on a porn shop, which I believe has a Mezuzah. It is opposite NY’s Port Authority on 8th Avenue. You wonder sometimes if some of them are just looking for some combat action!

  12. Jobber

    7/21/2005 at 10:58 pm

    What are some cool things to do in Montreal?

  13. me

    7/22/2005 at 7:42 pm

    one night i was walking home and a hasid on the corner asked me for the time, after i told him that i didn’t have it, he nonchalantly asked “how about some pussy?” how about that?

  14. anon

    7/23/2005 at 11:20 am

    except then dov was spotted at the w on thursday night making out with barely legal girls. dave, you shoudla stuck around.

  15. anon

    7/23/2005 at 11:21 am

    and by barely legal i mean, you cant blame a man if they were underage. they were let into a bar.

  16. Jobber

    7/24/2005 at 9:56 pm

    I understand that you can be brought on charges of rape if you meet a girl in a club, get her a drink, later have sex, regardless of her age. Just so that you know.

  17. Ricia

    7/28/2005 at 1:37 pm

    Far too often people are more outspoken when they are upset, and not nearly enough, do people speak up when they are happy and content.

    I’d like to take the time to share my thoughts to those of you currently working in retail, particularly those of you whom haven’t had the opportunity or the pleasure of meeting Dov. No one asked me to do this, I just wanted to share my own personal experiences with you. Maybe it will put to rest certain ideas or thoughts or misconceived perceptions on what you believe or what you have heard.

    First off, I am not some pretty face who was picked out and spotted on the street…I am not someone who is being given “special treatment” nor have I ever attended a trade show or modeled for any of our ads. I have had to earn my way to where I am now, and I could not be more happier or more content.

    One of the first things Dov ever said to me was “Can I be honest with you?” By letting him do so, this one sentence, led to a totally open line of communication which I had never had with Dov before. Until this very moment, I had always been nervous and totally awkward when he would visit my store, when in turn, he had also been really nervous and felt totally awkward whenever he visited my store. We hashed out our concerns, and both spoke openly about things that really had just been miscommunications.

    So, does this mean I no longer find Dov intimidating?
    Of course I do, and why shouldn’t he be? He is the owner of our company. The fact that he would even take 5 minutes out of his highly busy schedule to visit my store is a complete honor. Each of my employee’s are trained from the beginning to treat our store as if Dov could walk in any second. We all treat him as though he’s a “movie star” yet, he doesn’t expect that sort of treatment. He usually rushes in and out like the tazmanian devil, but makes sure to still find the time to say “hi” to each of the employee’s. Yes, I have had Dov walk in and totally freak out because a light bulb was missing…but If Dov see’s a light bulb out or a missing style on the floor, he certainly has every right to complain about it. His care and concern should be used as a learning tool and a special note to NEVER have it happen again.

    Many of you probably don’t realize just how much Dov really cares about what people think of him. He is open and kind and has a heart bigger then the size of the Broadway store. He has always been willing to listen to any concerns or suggestions. I know he gets hurt, just like everyone else, when harsh words are said about him, or when someone chooses to speak badly about the company, before ever approaching him with their concerns. I just want everyone to know that by making an effort to get to know him will in turn, help you realize his vision and what he is about. He is not someone who is untouchable, he is someone who takes his job quite seriously, but can still giggle at himself, he is someone full of so much knowledge, and love to share, that his crazy energy and spirit will give anyone inspiration to be better and appreciate their job even more.

    I’ve listed a few things I’ve personally witnessed of Dov, things I’d like to share so you can see just how much he really does care:

    walking into stores and making sure he says “hi” to each employee
    speaking one on one with employee’s who are having personal problems
    personally asking me about each of my employee’s and making sure each of them are happy
    making an effort to try and remember employee’s names
    purchasing clothing from our store with his own credit card for nearby restaurant owners
    offering legal assistance and providing lawyers to those employee’s who cannot afford it
    offering cars to employee’s who have no transportation
    flying groups of managers to LA and giving them a personal tour of the factory and the retail stores
    walking me to my car at night so that I would be safe
    asking me if I’m okay and settled and if I have a good man in my life taking care of me since I’m about to have a baby

    These are not things we have had to ask for. These are things he has offered because he cares. These are not “favorite flavors of the month” who have been given special treatment. These are regular everyday employee’s who work hard and believe strongly in the success of American Apparel. The fact that the owner of our company, the owner of any company, would take the time to do these things means much more than getting a raise. To many of us, its not about the pay…its about that little man with the big vision, who, within 5 mintues, can instill more hope and more encouragement than any dollar amount ever could.

    Also, in defense of those so called “favorite flavor’s of the month”…I have personally seen what they do and putting in a 10-12 hour work day 5 days a week is not something that many of us would ever be willing to do. I’ve seen them making various trips to different stores to make sure they are running smoothly, making orders for racks and personally driving to each store to deliver them and put them together, remerchandising entire salesfloors, helping out in backstock, training employee’s on how to give customer service…these kids are not being promoted with big raises, they are making a very “average” wage, if not less then our own salespeople, and yet, they’re working their asses off and loving every minute of it.

    In closing, if any of you are wondering what he had to say when he asked “Can I be honest with you?”
    he said, “I don’t like your eyebrows, they’re too small. Stop plucking them.”
    I smiled, and yes, having the owner of a million dollar company tell me that, was DAMN intimidating…but I didn’t cry, nor assume that he hated me…I immediately started working on my eyebrows.

  18. Vertically Integrated Culturejamming

    7/28/2005 at 3:09 pm

    “In closing, if any of you are wondering what he had to say when he asked ‘Can I be honest with you?’he said, ‘I don’t like your eyebrows, they’re too small. Stop plucking them.’

    I smiled, and yes, having the owner of a million dollar company tell me that, was DAMN intimidating…but I didn’t cry, nor assume that he hated me…I immediately started working on my eyebrows.”

    With all due respect, this sounds like the punchline to a joke with a long, boring setup. If this *isn’t* a joke, it ought to be. Are Dov’s staff dolls or human beings? Creepy. Seriously.

  19. ck

    7/28/2005 at 3:23 pm

    Hey VIC,
    Good to see you again. I’d like to, if I may, ask you a question. Is it really totally unacceptable for a business owner to be concerned about how his staff looks like? I know that at many chi chi cafes and restaurants the staff look like models – is that because only models applied for the jobs? Other places of employment have uniforms and rules about personal grooming. Frankly I find that kind of whacky and would never apply to work at places like that, but I don’t neccesarily think it’s wrong. So if it is wrong, why and is AA really the most eggregious violator of whatever moral values of yours you feel are compromised by this approach.

  20. Vertically Integrated Culturejamming

    7/28/2005 at 3:45 pm

    Well there are two issues here, CK. The first is the overall gist of Ricia’s testimony. She spends a long time celebrating Dov’s openness and honesty. And then we get to the punchline…what he wants to be “honest” about is that he doesn’t like her eyebrows. You have to admit, it’s a doozy of an ending!

    That being said, I’m not an expert on labor law and I’m not trying to prove Dov violated any specific law when he told Ricia to stop plucking her eyebrows. But it does fit an alleged pattern of controlling behavior on Dov’s part, doesn’t it?

    When one walks into an AA store, one can feel this sense of a tightly controlled aesthetic. The women are all thin, young and wearing skimpy AA shorts. We know that they are “encouraged” to avoid makeup, underwire bras and plucked eyebrows.

    Based on this evidence, one can’t help but wonder if the “real woman” image AA prides itself on, is based on lot of manipulation itself. Some real women have large breasts. Some pluck their eyebrows. Some are fat. Some like to wear lipstick. Good luck finding a Rubenesque woman behind the counter at AA. They don’t even carry fat girl sizes!

    So while Dov’s aesthetic may be different than the big-chested, made-up norm, the degree to which he exercises control over the bodies of the women in his stores is every bit as total as at Hooters. Indeed AA is the hipster Hooters.

  21. ck

    7/28/2005 at 4:20 pm

    Hipster Hooters… heh. I love alliteration. But seriously. I was just thinking… here in downtown Montreal we have several stores that cater to larger women. I pass by them every day on my way to the homeless shelter that I volunteer at. You know what? I have never seen a skinny female salesperson at any of those stores. Ever.

    If a store is geared towards a certain audience, does the salesperson’s appearance affect sales? An owner who is conscious of this is now a puppet master? Or is it ok for plus size ladies and I dunno, hippie vegetarians but not ok for urban hipsters? I am just asking in the interest of conversation because frankly, of all the AA detractors, your spelling is best and you are the least shrill. I appreciate your input and I look forward to your response.

  22. Vertically Integrated Culturejamming

    7/29/2005 at 3:54 pm

    CK-

    Thanks for continuing this dialogue. Again, I’ll confess that I’m not certain what the labor laws are in any given state, county or city. I think it’s reasonable to assume, however, that discrimination on the basis of weight is *probably* illegal. But let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to prove that you weren’t given a job for being too fat or too skinny, so suits of this nature probably don’t get very far.

    I think it’s wrong to deny someone a retail job for being too fat or too skinny. I don’t care if the company is run by “hippie vegetarians” or “urban hipsters.” No difference. If you can operate a cash register and fold clothes, you’re qualified.

    Furthermore, when a company markets itself as an ethical employer which recognizes the dignity of its workforce, they hold themselves up to greater scrutiny than the Gap or Lane Bryant.

    Based on the testimony of Charney’s defenders AND detractors, it’s clear to me that his retail staff are like so many dolls, chosen and dressed to his personal aesthetic preferences. If it’s not illegal, it’s at least a little unsettling.

    Perhaps he didn’t work these issues out in puberty?

  23. JC

    8/1/2005 at 11:55 pm

    Being one that rolls with a variety of Montreal AA staff, I’d like point out that there at least two employees at the St Catherine W store alone who defy the putative AA archetype. They’re both full-figured with a bust to match, and I believe that one of them is even a manager.
    And as for the scrutinizing DC’s management ethics, the AA website is pretty straight up about how its noblesse obligé pertains more to the production level of its operation than anything else. After all, AA has only had a retail operation for the last two of the seven years it has been in business.
    From what I can tell, DC seems to be more about restoring faith in capitalism at the manufacturing level by paying workers what their labout power is actually worth, rather than championing the interests of those peddling the end product at a fringe, bourgeois level of the industry.
    If you think about it, it’s the garment workers that are earning a bonafide livelihood, whereas retail workes tend to be more of a transitional, temp kind. I guess the ethical considerations that bear on the retail side pertain more to the salesperson’s choice rather than their particular their surplus value; being mostly students who intend to eventually move on to ‘bigger and better’ things, AA seems to offer retail personel an opportunity to peddle a product that’s ethically manufactured rather than something whose conceptions has been formulated with strictly the bottom-line in sight.

  24. themiddle

    8/2/2005 at 12:45 am

    Wow VIC, read your last paragraph and closing sentence and compare them to JC second paragraph. You sure you’re on the right side of this issue?

  25. Vertically Integrated Culturejamming

    8/2/2005 at 1:09 pm

    Would this be the same JC who claims to have discussed the sex harassment cases with an unnamed investigative journalist? The same JC who seems so intent on adding unattributed gossip about Dov’s accusers into the slipstream of internet gossip?

    Or didn’t you see JC’s comment (#228) on this thread:

    http://jewlicious.com/?p=77

    Seems like JC also has an agenda to push. And you look foolish suggesting that JC’s comments hold any more weight here, since he’s clearly (to use your lingo) an “interested party.”

    Anyways, I’ve already spoken to his specific point in earlier posts. Yes, the manufacturing end of the business *appears* to be run ethically, while the retail operation is run in a much more traditionally exploitive fashion. JC doesn’t dispute this. In fact s/he celebrates it.

    But since Dov has never submitted to voluntary inspections, we can’t even be sure of his claims regarding the manufacturing operation. To quote Richard Applebaum:

    “It’s like saying something is kosher, without having a rabbi look at it.”

    I guess we’ll just have to take JC and Dov’s word for it all.

    I’m sure you’re more than willing to do that, Middle.

  26. JC

    8/3/2005 at 12:35 am

    Yeah, I’m the same JC, and f**king right I’m an interested party: I’ve spent my free time putting in my two sense, haven’t I? Non-partisan parties are for JUDGING, not for debating.
    I just don’t see the inconsistency between Charney’s ethically sound manufacturing practices and his disappoitingly near-status-quo retailing ones. Calling working conditions at an AA retail outlet exploitative is like equating cocktail-waitressing with cotton-picking. Employees get paid the 8 or 10 or whatever dollars an hour because that’s what it’s worth to stand around an climate controlled environment and scmooze people in buying s**t that they don’t need. Anyone can do it, and that AA can maintain some ambiguous image standard of its retail employees only demonstrates that there are sufficiently enough potential candidates available in the work force to fill the positions.
    Now what’s really exploitation is playing off people insecurities to meet a quota necessary to cling to that 8 or 10/hour. Telemarketers do the same things, but we regard the them as being as seedy as their bosses!
    VIC, man, your use of ‘exploitative’ is obsolescently close to pinko language, and the commies lost the Cold War because their way of doing things was less viable than the capitalist one. Capitalism may be far from a perfect mode of distribution, but communism was obviously even farther off the mark. But if people can be paid that 8-10/hour to peddle superfluous accessories, then the problem isn’t that someone is dishing out the wage, but that people are so easily lured in by the salesperson’s tactics. Oh, hold on, I have an idea: some people drink too much, so lets go back to prohibition!
    All that matters is that Charney’s paying people for what their time is worth. It just so happens that the guy on the sewing room floor with a specific skill is worth more per hour than the short-term retail-level worker who has only a nice smile and pack of white-lies to offer.

  27. themiddle

    8/3/2005 at 2:21 am

    I dunno, VIC, interested party or not, JC is kicking your ass with his comments (although you win on spelling). Anyway, since I do read your comments and you’ve acknowledged that you’re an interested party, why should I give JC’s comments any less attention?

  28. LaSara

    8/5/2005 at 7:33 pm

    ck,

    I wonder if you would be willing to drop me a personal note? I have a question for you that needn’t take space on the board…If so, please write lasarafirefox (at) mindspring (dot) com.

    Thanks!

    -LaSara

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