American Apparel, rather than relying on underpayment of garment manufacturers, relies on a "sexually charged culture" to push its profits.
It's in the company's racy ads -- which run mostly in alternative newspapers such as New York's The Village Voice and LA Weekly -- that the line between work and recreational sex at American Apparel begins to blur. Charney takes many of the photos himself, often using company employees as models as well as people he finds on the street. "Meet Melissa," reads one print ad, which pictures a comely brunette in a shower and a see-through shirt. "She won an unofficial wet T-shirt contest held at the American Apparel apartment in Montreal." (The company maintains a string of apartments in the U.S. and Canada to save money on hotel rooms.)I am sure there are plenty of liberals and "progressives" that would see nothing wrong with this. He's just a smart, anti-exploitation, respectable businessman who uses images of sex and freedom to sell, right? And why not exercise your "First Amendment right" and get some "consensual sex" with your young female subordinates in the process? There is no uneven power dynamic, and hence no exploitation, there -- on a personal or market level.
In his marketing, Charney has been adept at weaving his libertarian sexual attitude with his progressive labor practices. But it's another matter to make that attitude a bedrock principle of the workplace. In their sexual harassment suits, two of the women accuse Charney of exposing himself to them. One claims he invited her to masturbate with him and that he ran business meetings at his Los Angeles home wearing close to nothing. Another says he asked her to hire young women with whom he could have sex, Asians preferred. All describe him using foul language in their presence, much of it demeaning to women. Says Keith A. Fink, an attorney for one of the women suing: "The work environment there makes Animal House look like choir practice."
Welcome to the post-feminist era.