The Resurrection of Dov Charney
Life After American Apparel
Still enraged over being fired by American Apparel’s board, the company’s libidinous founder is unrepentant. And if his new label, Los Angeles Apparel, is similar to the old one, that’s by design.
Also at Los Angeles Magazine
Photographs by Shayan Asgharnia
Dov Charney paces across the bedroom in a bathrobe and sweatpants, flip-flops and socks. “Don’t worry, I know this business!” he says, nearly yelling into his phone. He’s unshaven, and his sandals slap the travertine floor as he walks. “Trust me! I’ve sold $5 billion of apparel!”
It’s February 2016, barely a month since a judge ruled that Charney had failed to win back American Apparel, the company that suspended him 20 months earlier, the company he built from scratch. It had been a bitter fight. There were lawsuits and demonstrations by workers protesting the new management, allegations of death threats. As ever, Charney was a polarizing figure. Some saw a progressive visionary who paid his workers a decent wage and proved that textile jobs didn’t need to be outsourced for a company to make a profit. Others saw a sexist “troglodyte” (the Web site Jezebel) who slept with staffers half his age and whose recklessness destroyed the business.
Certainly he’d created a company as notorious as it was successful. American Apparel began by making basics—tees, hoodies, underwear—and expanded to disco pants and high-waisted jeans to become a label with a vaguely vintage feel. But it was attitude that drove sales. An antibrand that stood for youth and authenticity, American Apparel presented a conundrum: On the one hand, it showed that a company could do well by doing good, by manufacturing in L.A. and being labor friendly (fair wages, health benefits); on the other, its sexually provocative ads featuring everyday girls in scenes of crude, lo-fi sexuality appalled feminists the world over. “Now Open” one read next to a model with her legs splayed. The United Kingdom went so far as to ban some of Charney’s ads, but teenagers couldn’t get enough. American Apparel went from 3 stores in 2003 to 280 in 2011.
At one point Charney’s stock was worth more than $500 million. When he was fired in December 2014, it had dropped to $50 million, and less than a year later it was worthless—the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. By January 2017, American Apparel’s collapse will be complete: Its new owners, the Canadian clothing company Gildan Activewear, will announce massive layoffs as the downtown L.A. factory teeters on closure.
Charney, however, will already be forging a fresh path—a new company, much like the old one. He calls it Los Angeles Apparel, and it starts here with a man in a robe coaxing money from an investor. Like Steve Jobs, his favorite ousted founder, he’s plunging into his phoenix phase.
And that means spending a lot of time focused on money—raising it, saving it, explaining how he’ll make it. Charney had plowed so much of his wealth into American Apparel—$13 million all told—that there was little left and certainly no parachute, golden or otherwise, to soften the landing. He refinanced his home, an eight-bedroom Silver Lake mansion on Apex Avenue, an ironic address given the circumstances. But he’s also Airbnb-ing a couple of the rooms to help cover the mortgage.
Charney’s bedroom is his bunker, his war room, his brain. A designer in the corner works on a logo, and T-shirt cutouts lie heaped on the unmade bed, a Magic Wand vibrator among them. Notes and Post-its plaster the wall by Charney’s computer. The mirrors have been scrawled with bullet points and graphs, his former plans to return American Apparel to glory. And everywhere else—on the floor, on the dresser, even in the bathroom sink—there are piles of papers, legal filings, and binders.
“Listen, I know how this works,” he says, glued to the phone. In his pacing he has walked into a narrow closet, where he addresses the back wall. “I’ve done this before, trust me.”
That’s not true, not quite. Charney has recovered from setbacks, but nothing like this. He survived American Apparel’s first bankruptcy, in 1997, the same year the company moved to L.A. from Charleston, and he’s weathered plenty of controversy—for those ads as well as allegations of harassment and lewd behavior, like when he masturbated in front of a female reporter in 2004 (the reporter later wrote that there was no harassment involved). Over these last two years, however, he has not only lost his job but his company and wealth and much more. American Apparel was also his voice, his purpose, and the main source of his friends, lovers, and colleagues.
As the months pass, he finds some investors, some clients. He hires people to sew, and by this past August, the wheels are turning nicely. Whether at a knitting plant in Vernon or his new factory in South L.A., Charney is a blur—quick on his feet for 48, and loud. He’s a cartoonish figure, with his stubble and large spectacles, tapered sweatpants, plain white tee and sneakers; it’s the same look every day. There’s often an assistant in pursuit, juggling two cell phones and filming him on a selfie stick. Charney yells, he pleads, he bargains. And it never stops. On his drive home he snaps iPhone pictures of old storefronts, a vintage bodega, a mural, for his archive on thatslosangeles.net—all part of the new company’s aesthetic.
One Saturday afternoon at his house, which he calls a “business campus,” I watch clients and vendors stream to the door—some T-shirt company reps from Illinois, an elastics guy from South L.A. They’re met by Jindo, Charney’s skittish dog, and then any one of his housemates du jour, mostly American Apparel alums who have followed him to the new company. There’s Jan, a soft-spoken production manager from Holland; Houston, a photographer; and four young women—Nicole, Stephanie, Thalia, and Sofia—who, given Charney’s reputation, might be mistaken for a harem. The truth, however, is prosaic: They all say they’re in long-term relationships and here to work.
The Playboy Mansion this is not. Charney doesn’t party; he doesn’t drink or smoke. He watches so little television, he hadn’t heard of House of Cards when I met him. Instead he works up to 100 hours a week and expects much the same of others. At American Apparel he scarcely took a vacation in 20 years. So the personal and professional have always commingled. According to board member Allan Mayer, when he advised the CEO not to date his staff in light of various sexual harassment lawsuits filed against the company, Charney protested: “You’re telling me I can’t have a social life. Because my whole life is this company.” (Charney denies this.)
His obsession with work has also led to lawsuits. He’s been accused of yelling and bullying, like when a fired Malibu store manager alleged that Charney called him a homophobic slur and rubbed dirt in his face (the suit was settled). “He’s very intense, very driven, and yeah, maybe not always so empathetic,” says Iris Alonzo, a close friend who spent 11 years at American Apparel, the last 8 as creative director, before starting her own label, Everybody. “I remember people asking, ‘It’s my birthday—can I take the day off?’ and he’d be like, ‘Are you out of your mind ? Fuck your birthday! OK, happy birthday, but no, you can’t take the day off!’ ”
Now that same intensity is focused on filling an American Apparel-size hole in his life with a company that is a lot like it—a made-in-America basics brand that’s labor friendly and geared to the youth market. “Authenticity is our message, you understand?” he tells me one day as we inch along on the 110. “Because the real Los Angeles isn’t Baywatch. It isn’t da-da-da-da-da-daaaa! ” He sings the Entertainment Tonight theme song. “It’s these immigrant communities. It’s Chinatown, Koreatown. They haven’t been institutionalized. They’re little pockets of time.”
The ideas are swirling. Maybe he’ll update a classic sweatshirt or design a flat-soled slipper. He’s thinking about incubating a training program in prisons, too. “We don’t want to exploit prisoners, but when they come out, they can work for us,” Charney says.
“Look. It’s a huge challenge, but I’m going to catch up to where we were and carry on,” he adds. “It’s not for the money. I want the glory of building a business that challenges culture and advances humanity. At American Apparel we challenged notions of beauty, branding, manufacturing. I was having an impact on the culture of L.A., which is one of the Romes of the moment. And I want to continue.” He puts his foot on the gas and nudges forward. “That’s why I’m back in the ring.”
Los Angeles Apparel is a wholesale operation for now, with a plan to eventually go retail, as American Apparel did after waiting 14 years to open its first store, in Echo Park in 2003. All in good time, though. “I’m still getting my product story together,” he tells me on another day.
Where Los Angeles Apparel differs most is in streamlining and efficiency. Charney calls it “rapid reaction urban manufacturing”—swift production cycles, less paperwork. American Apparel 2.0. “Like the Beatles,” he says. “If John Lennon went solo, he’d still sound similar, right? I’m just going to start singing again.”
In this analogy, however, Lennon is haunted, unable to let go of the old band. For instance, one afternoon in his dining room, Charney is chatting with clients, a couple of military veterans from the Midwest who run a charity for servicemen. At first he talks about the production cycle, the shoulder stitching, but then he devolves into a rant about American Apparel, how dark corporate forces conspired to oust him, how they lied and cheated and offered him a consulting contract for a million six a year if only he’d sit back and accept the new CEO, Paula Schneider. But did he accept it? “I said, ‘Noooooo! ’ ” We all look up—the veterans, myself, staffers. Charney is standing at the end of the table, holding a chair above his head and roaring. “Fuck you! ”
Another time, at Zankou Chicken on Sunset Boulevard, he acts out the whole saga—the tale of a libertine entrepreneur Machiavellied out of his own company by sharks in suits—under the tube lights for me and a few bemused diners. He leaps from the molded seat and falls to his knees, shaking his fists. He waves a drumstick in the air and yells, “They fucking lied to me, man! ”
Charney was wary of me at first. Journalists hadn’t gotten his story right, he said. It was too complicated. That night at Zankou, though, the floodgates open. In the past six months or so, I’ve heard the story maybe 30 times. He’d call at midnight with a fresh memory, a new piece of evidence or wrinkle in the plot, each time replenishing his outrage. We spent days together at his house poring over legal filings, contracts, and e-mails. We role-played text conversations.
It all started when, according to Charney, American Apparel’s then-CFO John Luttrell persuaded the board to fire him and sell the company—a claim also made in an unresolved wrongful-termination lawsuit by a former employee, David Nisenbaum. (Luttrell declined my requests for an interview, as did several board members.) Desperate, Charney borrowed $20 million from the hedge fund Standard General to buy back a majority stake from the fund and reinstall himself. But the hedge fund withheld the full voting rights of his shares, pending a board investigation into his sexual conduct. Charney claims that Standard General managing partner Soo Kim assured him of a positive outcome, since he effectively controlled the “suitability committee” that would review the investigation. Charney’s mother, Sylvia Safdie, a fine artist in Montreal, says Kim told her the same thing. In a text to Charney, Kim described the investigation as “kabuki dance.” However, a Standard General spokesperson, who asked to remain unidentified, told me, “Dov hears what he wants to hear.”
The hedge fund soon allied itself with the board, citing Charney’s alleged sexual misconduct. But without him the company quickly declined. So within a year this beacon for made-in-America manufacturing, one of the biggest employers in L.A., was bankrupt and hemorrhaging jobs. A consortium of creditors took over, including Goldman Sachs, and last November, after another bankruptcy, Gildan Activewear bought the company. Cue store closures, massive layoffs, and a factory on life support. “Some fucking gonifs took my fucking business; it’s as simple as that,” Charney tells me. “That means ‘thieves’ in Yiddish. This was a crime.”
Today Standard General is suing him for the $20 million it loaned him, but there are other battlefronts, too: a defamation suit Charney filed against American Apparel (with whom he is also contesting his termination), even a case against his former lawyers. Some mornings he’ll start his day at his desk, on the phone with a Delaware judge and the Standard General lawyers as an assistant videos him with an iPhone. Moving on just isn’t an option.
What Charney describes is a clash of cultures—corporate versus maverick, institutional versus individual—that dates to 2007, when American Apparel went public, raising $280 million and fast-tracking its retail expansion around the world. From then on he’d have to answer to a board, half of which he’d picked himself; eight years later the board would fire Charney for being essentially the person he’d always been.
His reputation preceded him for good and for ill. Complaints kept coming about this short-tempered CEO who walked around in his underwear, hurled abuse at underperforming employees, and fostered an aggressively sexual workplace. While he was known for hiring applicants based on their looks, Charney was also known for entrusting young staffers and promoting them wildly.
“They were kids!” says Allan Mayer, who became a board member at Charney’s request after being brought in as a crisis PR specialist to help with the early sex scandals, not the least of which was masturbating in front of that journalist. But Charney sees “kids” as his target market and inspiration. “I like 15- to 22-year-olds because I know what they want,” he says. “And maybe I haven’t matured myself. I’m not married. A lot of people stay with the young all their lives—Mick Jagger, Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino.”
Mayer compares Charney to a 14-year-old, and he has a point. Charney is profane, mischievious, playful. He invites the affectionate chiding of maternal figures, and he savors notoriety. An advocate of free love, free expression, and “sticking it to the Man,” he views himself as a rebel in the ’60s tradition, the Lenny Bruce of V-neck tees.
“It was utopian,” says Iris Alonzo of her days working for Charney. At 23 she was sent to travel throughout Asia and Europe to scope out new retail locations. By 27 she was creative director. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “He was very demanding. The hours were long, it was low pay—all that. But it was a creatively wholesome place where it didn’t matter what kind of freak you were; everyone could just do their thing.”
Though Charney’s idealism elicits eye rolls from some, it propelled the company to early success, giving it the feel of a movement, with its overt sexual energy and charismatic leader. To this day those close to Charney talk of “the cult of Dov” and describe some staffers as “devotees.”
“ ‘Cult’ sounds so negative,” says Charney. “How about ‘culture’? I created a culture that people wanted to be part of. That’s what branding is about!”
With idealism, however, comes naïveté. On this count, allies and antagonists agree: Charney is too trusting. Nativo Lopez, former head of the immigrant rights organization Hermandad Mexicana, has seen him be swayed by unscrupulous workers. The day he was ousted, Charney arrived at the board meeting in high spirits, oblivious that he was about to be fired. Days later Alonzo watched him sign that fateful $20 million deal with Standard General. “They duped me, OK?” Charney says. This is the one lesson he seems to take away from his experience. “There were ways that I didn’t protect myself,” he says, “and by doing that, I didn’t protect the thousands of jobs involved. That’s it.” He throws his hands up. “I need to be a lot more careful about who I bring near me.”
“His strengths are his weaknesses,” says Charney’s father, Morris, an architect in Montreal. “I think his undoing was his openness. It makes you vulnerable.” Mayer tells me something similar. Like a tragic hero in the Greek tradition, he says, Charney “was brought down by the very things that made him great.” Mayer cites his micromanaging as a flipside of his concern for the business, but his words could also be applied to how Charney’s relentless work ethic, for example, made him an irascible manager and how his ambition pushed him to grow American Apparel too fast.
More than anything, it was his dual focus on sex and youth that led to his downfall, even as it transformed American Apparel into a cultural touchstone. Charney slept with his staff until the end. In the year of his firing, investigators uncovered a number of lurid e-mails, pictures, and videos that Mayer describes as “lawsuits waiting to happen.”
The most recent sexual harassment lawsuits were filed three years earlier, in 2011. A New York lawyer, Eric Baum, had gathered five ex-employees who alleged various forms of sexual harassment. One, Irene Morales, demanded $260 million, claiming Charney had forced her to be his sex slave. Yet she contacted him, offering sex, long after the alleged abuse. It looked fishy. “I was tarred, feathered, and fucked!” says Charney. Mayer phrases it more diplomatically: “If there was a suit where Dov was set up, it was that one.” He and the board went on to renew Charney’s contract in 2012.
Peter Schey was the investigating attorney for the company at the time. He runs the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which protects trafficked women. Money was at the forefront when he went to meet Baum in New York. “In essence,” Schey says, “he told me, ‘I have a young woman who was a teen sex slave for Dov, and it’s going to be a nuclear explosion in the media. So we need’—I forget what it was, $1.5 million or $2 million—‘within ten days.’ It felt like extortion.” Shortly after, two of the plaintiffs appeared on Good Morning America. (Baum declined to comment or connect me with the plaintiffs for this piece.)
Schey believes Charney had a physical relationship with only three of the five women and that the other two were making it up. “But they weren’t completely without merit,” he says. “Anytime a workplace relationship ends, one side may feel that it was oppressive. But I think it appeared to Dov as if it was consensual, and most reasonable people would have felt the same way given the nature of the communications.” Three cases went to a judge, who cleared Charney of sexual harassment; the other two went to arbitration.
The litigation costs were substantial: $8.2 million in all, though insurance picked up $7 million of that. They relate almost entirely not to sexual harassment but to a separate charge of failing to prevent another employee from posting a series of disparaging impersonation blogs in the names of Charney’s accusers. Still, Charney doesn’t accept that his behavior might, at the very least, have exposed the company to litigation. Rather, he brags about his victory—“not a single finding of sexual harassment against me!”—and that no such suit was filed during his final 36 months as CEO.
Mayer doesn’t see that as a defense. “I have a 14-year-old daughter,” he says, “so these issues are not abstract. There are questions of law and ethics and morality.” He calls Charney “a predator.”
For Charney, this talk about his sex life was just a pretext to fire him, a distraction from more important matters, such as the vast transfer of wealth from shareholders and workers to hedge funds and lawyers. He remains oblivious to the unsightly optics of an older, powerful CEO sleeping with his shopgirls. “Anyway,” he grins. “ ‘Predator’ is so subjective. I can’t tell you how many girls say ‘fuck me like you’re a sexual predator’ while I’m stuffing them.”
At times it sounds so Hollywood, a modern parable of sexual politics and corporate culture, a treacherous hedge fund and the death of a factory, all dovetailing, as it were, around one uniquely divisive figure. “They hoist a guy out of his company, he fights like a pig to get it back, and there’s this evil conglomerate of Wall Street investors, right?” is how Charney sums it up. He likens his story to The Big Short. “I cried when I saw that film because that’s what they did to me.” He shows me e-mails from people interested in directing his tale, including Adrian Grenier from Entourage.
One night we sit outside his house in his Hyundai Accent, and he says, “Usually there’s a winner and a loser with these things, but no one made money here. There are only losers—like the shareholders, myself, the workers, thousands of them fired, the suppliers…. And now they keep their foot on my throat because, God forbid, I should survive to tell the story.”
He points to his home. “I don’t need all this. I’ll move into an apartment—I don’t give a fuck. But I need the truth to come out. Because I was doing good for society. I’m employing people, I’m an exporter, and all of a sudden it’s taken away—from everyone.”
To Mayer, however, Charney isn’t the victim of the story: He tanked the business to such a degree that its subsequent bankruptcy 15 months later is his fault. “You can’t blame that on the new people,” he says. “It’s like blaming Obama for the recession.”
That assessment overlooks something as well, though: Charney’s effectiveness at driving the brand. As Lloyd Greif, a Los Angeles investment banker, says, “The first place the board went wrong was their choice of replacement CEO…. When Dov left, the company’s performance went off a cliff.” Greif characterizes Charney’s reign as a thrill ride, growing American Apparel too quickly, taking on mountains of debt at high interest, and navigating choppy waters at that, buffeted by the rise of fast fashion and the decline of brick-and-mortar retail. He was fired, Greif says, because “the board was concerned that time had run out. No banks were willing to lend. They had to try something new.”
It’s true that by the time Charney was fired, American Apparel was gasping for air under all that debt, despite revenues of $634 million the previous year. But Charney says banks were willing to lend to him. He argues—as do others, such as the analyst David Felman, who works with Greif—that the salient figure for the financial community isn’t net loss or profit but adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, aka EBITDA. By that yardstick the company was bouncing back: $7.4 million in the first half of 2013 and $16 million in the first half of 2014, the year of Charney’s firing. That year Irving Place Capital offered to buy the company at a valuation of $400 million and reinstall Charney as CEO. The proposal was rebuffed, and in the first half of 2015, EBITDA dropped to minus $4 million under Paula Schneider. Bankruptcy soon followed.
In October I find Charney standing in a dusty backyard on 28th Street and Central Avenue before an audience of 60 workers, mostly women, all Latino. The layoffs have begun at American Apparel, foreshadowing the 2,400 firings to come in January, and the workers here—some still employed at Charney’s old company, some not—are anxious about their future. Charney grabs a microphone, speaking in short sentences, so that the lead organizer, Nativo Lopez, can translate.
“I’m very excited,” he says, “and I want you to be excited, too. I’m sorry this was so painful. They took everything I had. But you know what they didn’t take? Our knowledge of manufacturing.” He goes on to deliver a rousing Any Given Sunday speech. Charney is in fine form.
He bounded in today, arms raised like a champion, and he was greeted with applause and hugs. Many here wear “I ♥ Dov” T-shirts, as they did when protesting the new leadership, under whom workers became subject to searches by security and were denied access to management.
This is the second such gathering this year, a chance for Charney to rally supporters and hire talent. Yesterday was his biggest sales day yet, and today he’s looking for a crew to work weekends. “If we get an order on Friday, we can ship on Monday!” he says. Even more efficient than American Apparel had been in its day. “We’re going to disrupt the apparel industry again!”
“Destroy?” asks a lady in the front row.
“No, disrupt,” says Charney. “It’s a big word in the business world. I know that right now it looks small, but I know what I’m doing. We’re getting organized to build a $500 million-plus company.” As he speaks, a flock of screeching parrots flies overhead, and a murmur goes through the crowd. “It’s a sign!”
At the end three women hand checks to Charney’s assistants totaling $4,000. They’re loans that could potentially be converted to stock, should he go that route—a new approach to funding a company and keeping it “Goldman Sachs free,” as Charney says, by making the workers stakeholders. It took Caterina Hernandez six months to save $1,000, and she knows she may never get it back if Charney’s company sinks. “That’s OK,” she says. “It’s thanks to Dov that I can live comfortably. I pray for him every night.”
When the axe eventually falls in January, groups of workers will march directly to Charney’s new factory space to sweep and ready the place for nothing. They’re counting on him.
Charney’s bonds with L.A.’s Latino community go back to 1997, when American Apparel set up in the city, making T-shirts that it sold wholesale. It wasn’t simply that he paid above the minimum wage and offered health benefits. He also made amnesty for undocumented immigrants a campaign at the company, painting a huge “Legalize LA” mural on his downtown factory wall.
His loyalties were tested in 2009, in the depths of the recession, when American Apparel went through a bruising immigration audit. Rather than circle the wagons around management and fire undocumented workers, Charney hired Peter Schey, who fought Proposition 187, which would have restricted access to public services by undocumented immigrants and their children. “He wanted a thorough review of every case,” Schey says. “And when [employees] wanted to march to support immigration reform, right in the middle of that audit, not only did [Charney] say, ‘Yes, take the time off,’ he marched with them.” After a 20-month federal investigation, 1,500 workers had to go—a huge chunk of the workforce. But the government found no negligence or ill intent on the company’s part.
While Charney’s stance on immigration embodies a libertarian’s philosophy of free movement in a borderless world, there’s more to it than that. Born in Montreal, he grew up around immigrants. His grandmother on his father’s side was a garment worker from Poland, and his grandfather a staunch socialist who opened his home to refugees during the war. His mother’s father, meanwhile, was a garment manufacturer from Aleppo, and one of the first Canadians to trade with China. According to Charney’s mother, they all had a profound influence. Charney came to embody these three things: socialism, entrepreneurship, and empathy for the worker.
She recalls a boy who challenged authority and never heard the word no. “He took up a lot of space,” she says. He was seven when his parents divorced, an amicable-enough split. After a few years of living with his mom, though, he decided that he wanted to spend more time with his father and called an attorney. Not content with delivering newspapers, he started publishing one for kids, which his classmates sold at bus stops. He was 11. And when he became interested in photography, he built a darkroom in his mother’s closet. Every project was taken to its limits. He began printing T-shirts in his room at Tufts University; when he decided he wanted to leave college to concentrate on that full-time, his mother knew that resistance was futile. “He pushed and pushed,” she says. “They used to say at American Apparel, ‘He nags and nags until he gets his way.’ ”
A mellow afternoon at the Apex house. Charney is in his bedroom, Swiffer-ing the floors and organizing legal papers. His assistants sit at laptops in the dining room. Then a knock at the door. Houston, the photographer, is with his model friend Max, a bashful, college-age boy in flannel shorts. They’re doing a shoot in the attic, the first pictures for the Los Angeles Apparel Web site, and Max wants to meet Dov.
“God, look at this guy!” Charney exclaims. “No pimples! He’s a fucking genius! Here, you want to wet his hair down at the sides like this,” he says, pressing down his curls. “See? Ralph Lauren, 1994. Tell me, Max, how many girls are dying for you right now?”
Max blushes and shrugs.
“We’re going to need restraining orders,” Charney says. “OK? Restraining orders! ”
He rushes to his computer and plays a clip of 1969’s Midnight Cowboy—Jon Voight getting ready to go out as a rent boy. “OK, Max. This is you, boy! This fucking movie is hipper than the hippest kids in the hippest restaurant in Echo Park. Back then, it was all about New York, but now it’s L.A. New York got sold. Allan Mayer took over New York.”
The two haven’t heard of Allan Mayer, but they’re inspired anyway. After they run upstairs to shoot some more, Charney starts wiping the scrawl off his mirrors with rubbing alcohol. “For the first time,” he says, “I feel like I’m getting my life back.”
It’s like the early days at American Apparel. He didn’t once consider launching a different kind of company. When I ask, he laughs: “What—like a TV station? I’m in the shmatte business!” American Apparel was successful, so why change? The new boss will absolutely be like the old boss, workplace relationships and all. “Welcome advances are permitted under the law,” he says. “Fifty-seven percent of people meet their partners at work. And that’s not just for me. It’s for everyone. God forbid that two people who work together should fall in love.” The real figure is more like 10 percent, but Second Act Charney is unrepentant. “I did my best,” he says. “I cared for that company like it was my child. I don’t think there’s much I did wrong.”