Dov Charney's Long Night Of The Soul

Dov Charney is Lenny Bruce. Dov Charney is Martin Luther King, Jr. Dov Charney is Duddy Kravitz. Dov Charney is Hugh Hefner in the '70s. Dov Charney is a punching-bag of the politically correct left and a victim of the religious right. Dov Charney is, according to his dad, "not great at tact." Dov Charney is, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the founder of a company that discriminates against "women, as a class, on the basis of their female gender, by subjecting them to sexual harassment."

If Dov Charney didn't exist, R. Crumb would have had to invent him. Dov Charney has been sued for sexual harassment nine times in the past six years. Dov Charney has no comment about how naked photos of his latest alleged victim, Kimbra Lo, ended up on a blog with captions like, "I LOVE THAT I CAN WASTE YOUR TAX DOLLARS WITH THESE FAKE LAWSUITS. Hey, the courts have to hire a lot of people to photocopy and read all those fake papers I filed," and "Here I am coming in his bed last December...I just wanted to give all of you some insight about my rape and kidnapping last December." Even though the photos were taken at Dov Charney's house.

Dov Charney's house, by the way, is a 20-room poured-concrete mansion that was built in the 1920s by an industrialist who had a pathological fear of fire. Up to a dozen American Apparel employees — young women, mostly — stay there at any given time. Dov Charney maintains similar company apartments in cities around the world. "He needs to have somebody around to say, ‘Yes, Dov,' or feed into what he is saying," says a friend.

Dov Charney doubts that some of the more insane provisions of his company's employment contracts — like the one that bars any employee from "photograph[ing] or record[ing] Dov Charney or any of his residences," and presumably the one that prevents any employee from ever speaking to the media about Dov Charney or American Apparel — are legally enforceable. Dov Charney likes to talk. Dov Charney is in fact given to calling reporters at unsociable hours to rant — sometimes for hours — off the record about Jane magazine and the iniquities of immigration law and the absolutely criminal, totally puritanical small-mindedness of American culture. As a child, Dov Charney used to "collect rainwater in empty jars, which he sold to amused neighbors." In high school, Dov Charney got a B+ in Ethics.

Dov Charney's company lost over $86 million last year, and had, as of last month, only $5 million in cash on hand. That's roughly the same sum Dov Charney had to pay Woody Allen in 2008, after Charney used stills from Annie Hall on American Apparel billboards without the copyright holder's permission. Dov Charney says, in the words of the New York Times, that he is "worried about preserving the company's distinct culture." Dov Charney complained to the Times "loudly," "more than once" about his board of directors. (Rumors that Dov Charney's lenders — to whom American Apparel owes more than $140 million, mostly accrued during a debt-fueled and wildly prolific retail expansion that Charney undertook at the height of what proved to be a real-estate bubble — want to force him out have proliferated in the weeks since American Apparel's annual report used words like "bankruptcy" and "Chapter 11" and "insolvent" and "no longer a going concern.")

Dov Charney has lately been forced to hire some executives with experience — some men from Blockbuster and Joseph Abboud, some men who customarily conduct business meetings in suits rather than in tube socks and glasses and what God gave them — and Dov Charney doesn't like this at all. (Perhaps this reminds him of Ken Cieply, the "complete loser" square of a CFO Charney had to hire in 2008 after the previous guy died of a heart attack on the job. Charney went a year having junior staffers do the book-keeping before submitting to Cieply and his loserliness.) On the topic of the new suits, he sounds exercised. "I'm supposed to hire all these clowns, like they know better," says Dov Charney. "Oh, just put me in the creative room, the rubber room, the clown room. Give him a model. Give him a camera. He'll be O.K."

Dov Charney swears he will live to fight another day. "I refuse to allow society to define me at this time," says Dov Charney.

Dov Charney Has Only Just Begun To Fight [New York Times]