As we all know, American Apparel has a history of questionable and offensive practices associated their brand. In just about any ad you can find scantily-clad women, posing in inappropriate, sexually-overt ways. This, however, is not too surprising considering that the former CEO Dov Charney has faced a slew of sexual harassment lawsuits, one even stating that he kept a former teenage employee on payroll as a sex slave.
Charney never failed in influencing my eye-roll reflex and, to be honest, because of his perverted nature and its influence on the brand, I’ve steered clear from the apparel-line all-together.
However, since Charney’s termination from the company in December, the new CEO Paula Schneider has taken the reins, making alterations to the brands infamously “risque” aesthetic. The new goals for transformation include making the brand more positive and socially conscious- eliminating its association with inappropriate and overt sexiness. I think I speak for a number of women when I say, finally! Not only was the brands former image extremely tacky but the company has been in dire need of a new direction, considering it lost over $300 million dollars in the last five years under Charney’s reign.
The company has also unveiled a new sexual harassment policy which states, “No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate, regardless of whether the subordinate reports to the management employee, either directly or indirectly.” What a concept!
While it’s commendable and incredibly necessary for the company to issue a sexual harassment policy, the only issue I have is that any action toward punishing sexual misconduct has been long overdo. The first (reported) sexual harassment situation, involving Charney, occurred in 2004 when he “pleasured” himself during an interview with Jane magazine reporter, Claudine Ko.
If it took 11 years to issue a sexual harassment policy or termination of the CEO, the issue obviously does not reside solely within branding, it’s mainly attached to the internal management by the company’s directors.
However, in turning over a new leaf, two former board members of the company have resigned and been replaced in the last three months. American Apparel seems to finally be heading in the right direction and CEO Schneider intends to get the stumbling company steady on its feet. In a company statement, Schneider stated, “My goal is to make American Apparel a better company, while staying true to its core values of quality and creativity and preserving its sweatshop-free, made in USA manufacturing philosophy.” Considering her impressive background as the president for numerous top fashion brands, including BCBG Max Azria, Laundry by Shelli Segal, and Warnaco Swimwear group, there’s no doubt that Paula Schneider will hold her own in leading the brand in long-term (thankfully, perv-free) success.