UPDATE: Has a Blogger ever fisked himself? Well, I think I just might have to. Why? Because in my rush to be all snarky and ironical, I may have actually been unfair and even (gasp!) innaccurate about Dov Charney. As a testament to my shame, I will leave the original post up and follow up with a self-fisking of unprecedented severity. Please read to the very bottom of this post. My updated comments about Dov Charney will follow (June 27, 2005). I feel I need to do this given the massive number of Web sites that link to this particular post as well as some of the totally off the register things people have been saying in response to Charney’s transparency and honesty about his interests.
Ya know, they say “information is power.” Well, sometimes it’s a curse. When you run a Web site and have access to your log files, and you know what to do with them, you get a wealth of information about your visitors.
My name is ck, and I am an Information junkie.
I run my logs through 2 log analyzers, I look through my referers 3 different ways. I’m a total nutbar that way. There’s no real reason to do it. I just want to know stuff. So what have I learnt recently? I have learnt that way too many people want to know about Dov Charney(founder of American Apparel) and an article that appeared about him in the July issue of Jane magazine. I mentioned the article as a total aside in a post I wrote about the whole coolness and Judaism thing (I tend to digress a lot). Somehow this teeny little mention put Jewlicious near the top of search results on both google (no. 7) and yahoo (no. 1) .
Here’s some basic information. Dov Charney runs a t-shirt company called American Apparel. They wholesale and retail a line of t-shirts that use a finer type of cotton, resulting in a more form fitting and softer product. American Apparel t-shirts are also heavily advertised as being sweat shop free, and in fact American Apparel employees work in comparatively great conditions, getting paid significantly more than minimum wage and other benefits that include free massages, subsidized lunches, english language courses etc. Charney’s t-shirts are favored by many DIY hipster outfits, for instance (amongst the Jews) Jewcy, Jewschool, Jewish Fashion Conspiracy and on and on. All of this was discussed in the Jane Magazine article.
Pretty banal so far, right? Well, why does everyone want to know about this particular article?
Well, because Dov Charney likes to masturbate. A lot. In front of women. And female reporters. He also has no problem walking around nude or covered by just a small towel. He also likes taking pictures of his scantily clad models. Oh… and he’s slept with his employees. He’s pretty up front about his peculiar predilections – some of the articles reproduced on the American Apparel Web site reflect his unusual behavior. As far as I know, he’s never forced anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do. In interviews, his employees describe an employer who is somewhat unusual and a little manic but who is passionate about running an ethical AND successful business. Well ethical in so far as he treats his workers. Perhaps not so ethical with regards to potentially sticky sexual harassment situations.
I bought the issue of Jane Magazine in question. Yes, Dov masturbated in front of reporter Claudine Ko. And he did other stuff. Here are the relevant passages, since Jane Magazine is not available on-line (nor has the article been reproduced on the American Apparel Press page):
Ko goes out with Charney and an unamed female employee:
I asked him how he relaxed. Oral sex he says, settling into a chair behind a cloud of smoke. “I love it … I am a bit of a dirty guy, but people like that right now.”
Explaining exactly how the rest of the night unraveled is somewhat difficult. Let’s just say, the female employee helped him “put on a show” for me. I watched, trying to be objective, detached – sorta like a … war reporter?
Ko goes to Charney’s pad late one evening for an interview session:
Soon enough he loosens his Pierre Cardin belt.
“Are you going to do it again?” I ask.
“Can I?” he says adjusting himself in his chair.
And thus begins another compulsive episode of what Dov likes to call “self-pleasure,” during which we casually carry on our interview, discussing things like business models, hiring practices and the stupidity of focus groups.
“Masturbation in front of women is underrated,” Dov explains to me later over the phone. “It’s much easier on the woman. She gets to watch, it’s a sensual experience that doesn’t involve a man violating a woman, yet once the man has his release, it’s over and you can talk to the guy.”
Ko claims that in the month she spent with Charney, she watched him pleasure himslef eight or so times. She ends the article by describing how she leaves Charney in New York, interview completed, and hails a cab. “Then as I step into the depths of the backseat, I realize I don’t want this trip to end just yet.”
So there you have it. All you people visiting Jewlicious from New York, LA, Philadelphia, Slovenia (yes, Slovenia) and Morgan Stanley looking to get the skinny on the Jane Magazine article now have it.
I’ve done business with Charney’s company before (when it was called American Heavy and based out of Montreal and North Carolina) and dealt with his warehouse guy Nimal. He was cool, and I have no complaints. I have an acquaintance in Montreal who worked for Charney and now wishes he were dead, but she tends to be a little melodramatic and wouldn’t give me any dirt. I know there’s been some criticism online and I guess it remains to be seen what effect these stories will have on the company’s bottom line. Bottom line, I have no doubt that his workers love him and that he treats them well. He has many women working for him in management positions and I am pretty sure he can’t be sleeping with them all. If I were his attorney I’d advise him to take it easy though. That having been said, I find it odd that Americans get all wound up about a guy masturbating but have no problem, or pay little attention to the economic injustices that go hand in hand with their consumer oriented society.
As I have noted in the previous blog, props go out to Mireille Silcoff who was actually one of the first to run a story on Charney that discussed his whacky ways. I’ll reproduce it here if anyone asks because it too is unavailable online. Otherwise here are some links that you all can follow that will fill you in on post-Jane Magazine reactions to American Apparel:
Koshi (see the June 5th Blog entry)
Get Underground: Uh… just read it.
brandchannel.com – They seem to like American Apparel, but they definitely do not like Dov Charney
Beaver Power! Is badly executed imitation still the sincerest form of flattery?
UPDATE Dov Charney as a Jewlicious Philanthropist: Dov buys laptops for an Arab kid and his partner in Tel Aviv because they won a History of Zionism contest.
Ok. I have Dov Charney coming out of my ears now (shutup!). Maspik.
And now it’s time for Dov Charney reconsidered
See, I was reading this article in the July 2005 Details Magazine about the Chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman. He was all hyped up about how the Republican Party was going to make inroads into non-traditional Republican sectors, like latinos and youth. Now, its no big secret that I am no Republican – I like my nationalized Canadian Health Care, I like my government subsidized universities and the notion of privatizing social security scares the heck out of me.
I’m not opposed to family values or religion or anything like that – but I do resent hypocrisy and I further resent the notion that if you don’t follow a certain political path you are neccessarily immoral. So as I was reading the article and the RNCs plans, I wondered if perhaps I myself had bought into this whole notion of false puritanism – you know the kind that allows children to interact with violent television and video games but blanches at any mention of sexuality.
Case in point is this post. I wrote the following:
Well, because Dov Charney likes to masturbate. A lot. In front of women. And female reporters. He also has no problem walking around nude or covered by just a small towel. He also likes taking pictures of his scantily clad models. Ohâ€¦ and he’s slept with his employees.
So Dov Charney likes to masturbate. And some of his fully consensual encounters have involved masturbating in front of a woman. As for the walking around nude part, I should have mentioned that this too is totally normal and he does this in the privacy of his own home (shocker!). As far as the scantily clad models go, I was a bit unfair there too. His models are real women, unretouched by Photoshop and unscarred by plastic surgery or uh… bulimia. Compared to what one sees in Cosmo or any ad by Diesel, Victorias Secret, Agent Provocateur and any number of other fashion houses, Charney’s stuff is tame. Finally with respect to sleeping with his employees, this is where I hang my head in shame the most. I was so quick to judge and yet, when I think about it, pretty much every woman I have had a serious relationship with in the past 8 years is someone I met at work. What a shocker given that I spend almost 90% of my waking hours at work. Like Charney, I am also in an executive position and like Charney, I was always careful that everything I did was consensual. So what’s the big deal?
I also mentioned “female reporters.” All indications are that whatever happenned with Claudine Ko, the reporter who wrote the Jane Magazine article, was isolated and fully consensual. I spoke to Claudine and she haid this to say about Charney:
Whenever I see a picture of Dov I can’t help but smile and think fondly of him. That reporting experience was fun, engaging, stimulating and interesting. Dov Charney is a mad man and I like that.
Sorry, but that doesn’t sound sinister at all. Sounds like some folks had a good time together, a bit more than one usually has doing a story, and that was it. Charney was a bit revealing, maybe too revealing, but dudes – its not like he’s eating children or anything!
He’s pretty up front about his peculiar predilections – some of the articles reproduced on the American Apparel Web site reflect his unusual behavior. As far as I know, he’s never forced anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do. In interviews, his employees describe an employer who is somewhat unusual and a little manic but who is passionate about running an ethical AND successful business. Well ethical in so far as he treats his workers. Perhaps not so ethical with regards to potentially sticky sexual harassment situations.
The big deal I guess is that Charney is up front about how he is. What you see is what you get. Just because the chairman of GM for instance, doesn’t talk about how he wipes his butt or occassionally masturbates, doesn’t mean he doesn’t do it. So those of you who react in horror at Charney, I mean like, where do you work? In a monastery or something? For the Dalai Lama? Why do people feel the need to heap scorn upon a guy for being honest? Like I’ve said before, let he who has never masturbated throw the first stone.
Perhaps some of the criticism is due to Charney’s success. His clothing has this whole no-logo appeal, his choice of models threatens the modeling agency infrastructure (imagine being sexy without being over 6 feet tall and weighing under 105 pounds!) and his success at manufacturing garments in the US makes all those other comapnies who have relocated to the third world look like crap. American Apparel now has 55 stores, they produce a million garments a week and their stuff is unbearably sweet and oh so soft. Success breeds resentment and there seems to be no insignificant amount of resentment going around. And what’s it based on? A CEO being a little frank about his sexuality. No one gives Jean Paul Gaulthier or Dolce and Gabana this kind of hassle. But hey, they’re gay, and so that’s ok?
I dunno. I’m kind of embarassed. I have helped feed into this whole frenzy and it’s just wrong. Charney’s done some damned amazing things. He’s a shit disturber extraordinaire and the finished product is a good one – well paying manufacturing jobs in the US, a great finished product and a thought provoking pattern of activity. His Mom should be proud of him.