When things get really tough for American Apparel, Dov Charney starts talking. He talks about everything from how great American Apparel's factory conditions are for workers, to how you can't believe everything you read about him, to his boundary-breaking marketing tactics — everything but the sexual harassment lawsuits (that would be too embarrassing). He might be on his cell phone with random strangers and pranksters who have the balls to call his personal cell phone number, having been invited by Charney to do so, and engage in an actual and thoughtful conversation with him. It might be with reporters — like this one from CNN with the remarkably toned arms — who are drawn to the man like Jennifer Aniston exhibiting her cellulite on the beach.
But he and the Jens of the world aren't all that dissimilar, are they? Far as the public knows, she might have cellulite (might), he might have been sexually inappropriate with his employees (might). People can make things up about famous clothiers, people can photoshop dimples onto celebrities' thighs. But none of that matters if the person in question believes in himself — and that can be enough to spin a few very embarrassing stories into a much less embarrassing one. When Tyra Banks got all that flack for looking like what some called "America's next top waddle" in that infamous photo of her in a bathing suit frolicking in the ocean, did she take it lying down? Hell no! She put on that bathing suit and waltzed right onto the set of her talk show and told all the people talking shit that she didn't give a shit. She went to People and gave them the cover headline "161 lbs. I Still Feel Hot." She spun the story into one of the most memorable in the modern history of celebs wearing bathing suits, and emerged victorious (and after all that, she lost some weight). So, let's take a closer look at Charney and his spin tactics — which started, let's not forget, with his photo op with a dog that was kind of cute but mostly looked like it was trying to squirm free from the CEO's hairy grip. Does Charney fare better in a new interview with the Village Voice? Let's see.
Public perception: American Apparel's investors, Lion Capital, are losing confidence in the brand after all the sexual harassment lawsuits.
Charney: "My assessment of Lion Capital is that they're a very good financial partner and they would not lose confidence in me personally as a result of fraudulent claims. They're perfectly able to make that assessment because there's intelligent leadership in that organization."
Spin: People who believe the accusers are stupid.
Public opinion: American Apparel has so many financial and image problems it will probably just disappear in a couple of years, and we'll all look back on it with a half-cringe, the way we look back on all the bad things we wore in the eighties and nineties that AA is trying to bring back.
Charney: "This story's not over. I'm 42. I mean, Calvin Klein went from 300 million dollars in sales to 30, everyone thought he was over. Tommy Hilfiger had ups and downs. I'm 42 and everyone else is in their 60s. I'm the youngest guy out there and what's disappointing is that the youth media is killing their babies."
Spin: YOU BABY KILLERS, YOU.
Public perception: While those 1,800 illegal immigrants had to be laid off once the government discovered them, Charney was just dicking around, like he always does.
Charney: "By the time all the workers were replaced, it was mid-summer. Bathing suits were arriving in stores in september. Cost overruns were 25% over the norm. We had done a massive ad campaign which cost over a million dollars. I was sleeping in the factory one or two nights a week and organizing the parking lot for an influx of 18,000 interviewees. We had a net retention of 2700."
Spin: And you worked how hard today? Read a few blogs, sent a few emails, went out to lunch?
Public perception: AA is totally going to file Chapter 11.
Charney: "I can understand that point of view, and many business people in my position would explore it, but I'm not wiling to do that."
Public perception: We can ruin the life of Dov Charney, who may have ruined lots of other people's lives, by prank calling him with that number he posted to the Internet.
Charney: "I received a number of prank phone calls yesterday, and one prank caller from London who I found remarkably interesting said, you know, that the reason she's so excited about me is that because she thinks there's a movement that is rejecting the notion that one needs to live a restrained life in order to make it right now. It's this agreement that's taken place between the politically correct left and the religious right, and we're experiencing a kind of social McCarthyism. Things are so tight that you can't just enjoy yourself and be free and transparent and open without getting stabbed for it."
Spin: Charney enjoys engaging you in a conversation in which he will attempt to make you feel stupid with unnecessary use of -isms.
Public perception: But, dude, no one likes you.
Charney: "I have academics that call me frequently and write me. I have employees that are extremely loyal to what I do -- my mission. I have fans."
Spin: I am like your favorite pop star — whose dancing can only be outdone by my intellect.