How Dov Charney Built American Apparel Into a Fashion Powerhouse

No matter what your personal opinion is about Dov Charney or American Apparel, Dov brought real innovation and vision to both the imprintables t-shirt industry while having a major impact on fashion as a hole. Love or hate and there's plenty of both - what an amazing ride!

How Dov Charney Built American Apparel Into a Fashion Powerhouse
How Dov Charney Built American Apparel Into a Fashion Powerhouse | Printwear Magazine

You might not know the name Dov Charney, but you almost certainly know American Apparel. The now-defunct brand (now owned by Gildan Brands) was once the biggest player in the fine jersey fashion game, and all thanks to Charney.

He was the controversial, yet undeniably brilliant, CEO who turned American Apparel into a household name. But his career came to a screeching halt in 2014 after a series of sexual harassment allegations.

Now, Charney is back with a new brand and he's hoping to recapture some of that old glory. In this article, we take a look at Charney's career and how he built American Apparel into the powerhouse it once was.

Dov Charney's Early Life and How it Shaped His View of Fashion

Born in Montreal, Dov Charney was always interested in fashion. As a child, he would cut up his clothes and sew them back together to create his own unique outfits.

After dropping out of college, Charney moved to Los Angeles and began working as a photographer. It was here that he started American Apparel, a company that would become one of the most successful fashion t-shirt brands in the world.

What made American Apparel so successful was Charney's unique view of fashion. He believed that fashion should be accessible to everyone, and that it should be comfortable and sexy at the same time.

Dov Charney at American Apparel's Los Angeles HQ | Printwear Magazine

The Founding of American Apparel and its Early Days

Let's go back to the early days of American Apparel. It's modern founding and what we know as the Los Angeles version of AA was founded in 1997 by Dov Charney, a Canadian entrepreneur who was just 28 years old at the time.

Prior to this and with a small loan, Charney started making T-shirts in his dorm room at Tufts University and selling them out of the trunk of his car. He quickly gained a following for his high-quality, made-in-the-USA T-shirts, and American Apparel 1.0 was born.

The company grew rapidly in its early years, and by 2003 it had become the largest T-shirt manufacturer in the United States. It continued to grow from there, expanding into other clothing categories and becoming a household name.

American Apparel logo | Printwear Magazine

How American Apparel Grew to Become a Fashion Powerhouse

So how did American Apparel grow to become one of the biggest fashion brands in the world?

Well, it all started with Dov Charney. Charney was always a bit of a rebel, and in 1997, he founded American Apparel as a way to shake up the fashion industry. With its comfortable and trendy clothing, American Apparel quickly gained a following among young people.

As the company grew, Charney remained at the helm, becoming known for his controversial marketing tactics and eccentric behaviour. But it was this unique approach that helped American Apparel stand out from the competition and become one of the most recognisable brands in the world.

American Apparel store | Printwear Magazine

Charney's Controversial Tenure as CEO of American Apparel

Dov Charney's tenure as CEO of American Apparel was fraught with controversy. He was often criticised for his crass and sexist comments, as well as his unconventional management style. However, many people argue that it was Charney's Vision and Passion that helped build American Apparel into the Fashion Powerhouse it is today.

The Downfall of American Apparel Under Charney

Things started going downhill for American Apparel when Dov Charney was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by several employees in 2014. Although he denied all the claims, his behaviour had become increasingly erratic and he was eventually fired from the company.

Without Charney at the helm, American Apparel's sales started to decline and it filed for bankruptcy in 2016. The company was eventually bought by Gildan Activewear, which discontinued all of American Apparel's designs and trademarks.

What the Future Holds for American Apparel

So what's the future for American Apparel? Well, only time will tell. The brand is a small part of Gildan and has now incorporated another brand into into range, Alstyle Apparel.

Dov Charney is no longer at the helm, as he runs an AA style business under the name Los Angeles Apparel. It's a slightly subdued version of AA with a much smaller range. Probably 10% the size of what AA had become.

American Apparel itself has a lot of potential. But Gildan has pulled the plug on a completely made in the USA brand and it's just become a home of AA's IP and brand - nothing more.

American Apparel's Original Downtown Los Angeles Factory | Printwear Magazine

Dov Charney is one of the most controversial and well-known businessmen in the fashion industry. He is the founder of American Apparel, a clothing company known for its provocative advertising and comfortable, basic clothes.

American Apparel has had its share of ups and downs, but Charney's unique vision has made it one of the leading fashion brands in the world.

American Apparel Stores - Exteriors

American Apparel Stores - Interiors

No matter what your personal opinion is about Dov Charney or American Apparel, Dov brought real innovation and vision to both the imprintables t-shirt industry while having a major impact on fashion as a hole. Love or hate and there's plenty of both - what an amazing ride!

Note on sources: This article uses mixed sources of material and I merely assembled this from those sources. Alongside personal knowledge of AA and it's products, I worked with AA for more than ten years as a screen printer and distributor of the range. - MF

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