So, as many of you probably already know, American Apparel CEO Dov Charney posted his phone number (it’s 213-923-7943) for anyone who wanted to talk about looks discrimination at American Apparel. Who wants to talk about looks discrimination at American Apparel? We do! So we called Dov for his perspective on the situation. The transcript below:
How have you been responding to the reaction in the media about looks discrimination at American Apparel?
I think you can see when you visit our stores we have a wide range of people and we’re very honest.
Okay. I do think there are a lot of other stores, like Abercrombie and Fitch that also hire based on certain criteria.
I think every retailer and restaurateur, anyone who is dealing with the public has to make sure their people resonate a particular energy. Whether they’re in auto-sales or anyone else. Abercrombie and Fitch has their way of doing it. I’m not saying that’s the right way.
I think that’s definitely true. But I guess one thing that puzzles me is that if you’ve hired people who seem to have the right look, and you’ve established that they’re stylish, do they really need that many rules about how to pluck their eyebrows? Shouldn’t you just trust that they’re not going to make absolutely horrible decisions?
I think there are dress codes at every hotel, I think there are dress codes at McDonald’s. I think it’s a fake story, okay? I think there’s a dress code at Home Depot. I think it’s a fake story to say that American Apparel has a dress code that’s different from all retailers. I don’t think you can even work in the concierge desk at the common mall if you don’t follow a dress code.
Maybe part of the reason that people that people have zeroed in on American Apparel is that it does have this really, really sexualized image that presents women that look a certain way in all of the advertisements. Do you ever feel that detracts from some of the good that American Apparel does?
You know, I mean, it might, it might not. Right now, we’ve built a very large business. I think that’s a superficiality. I think that if you look at the majority of clothing made that’s sold in the United States in any factory they’re manufactured in conditions of poverty. Yet, at American Apparel, we’re paying fair wages to our workers. I think a lot of the media attention is self serving to the media itself and not self serving the interest of knowledge, information and justice.
That we have a provocative ad campaign that attracts people’s attention is part of the business we’re in. And what’s more important is how we treat the people who work for us, particularly industrial workers who are locked in in front of a sewing machine, out of sight, out of mind. It’s incredible how much attention people give to our dress code when they should be paying attention to where the clothes are made. Believe me, I’ll sit you down in front of a sewing machine for five minutes and you won’t be worried about the dress code. For instance, last night, I had an injury at work, I had an employee break his foot moving the machine. And I felt panic. And I felt much more panicked about that than the Gawker article. Because I don’t think this story is real. I think it’s manufactured. The e-mail was inauthentic! It’s not even a real e-mail!
In what way was it altered?
Someone changed it! I can alter an e-mail in five seconds.
Did it exist at all, or did Gawker just completely manufacture it?
It’s a private correspondence. It’s all intended to be confidential and private… employees sign confidentiality agreements. It’s one person saying “hey, this is the direction we’re going in, not that direction, but this direction.” It’s words, you know? Is this company coming from an authentic, genuine place? I think that it is. I’m proud of American Apparel. I’m proud of what we do. And I think we operate. We’re passionate. We demand people to work the hours. We pay garment workers as best as we can and I believe that we bring a lot of value to our customers. But to say that we can’t have a dress code and that we’re somehow different it’s just ridiculous. I hope that illuminates some different perspective.