Recall for a moment E!'s once hit show The Girls Next Door (before the original cast left and the twins came on and it got bad). The environment was one where the girls — Hugh Hefner's girlfriends and those visiting — were expected to be naked and have no problem getting naked when around Hef or other Playboy people. They'd gamely pose for photos with their boobs out, do scavenger hunts (because this is day care, really) with their clothes falling off, and encourage aspiring playmates to enjoy the thrill of a cool breeze on a bare crotch just like they so often do — and be ready to shake Hef's hand just when they get totally naked, because his favorite thing to do is lurk in the bushes and look at ... bushes. Apparently, American Apparel was supposed to be sort of a hipster version of this. Dov Charney tells the Times he wants his lifestyle to be like Hef's at the Playboy mansion in the seventies. So he makes the raunchy ads and has his employees — mostly women — stay with him at his home temporarily.
But along the way, maybe not everyone who got to hang out with Charney understood what he was trying to emulate. And maybe he didn't do the best job of emulating it, such as the time he masturbated in front of that Jane magazine reporter in 2004. And maybe the five women who filed sexual-harassment lawsuits last month against Charney were also unaware that AA was supposed to be an environment of never-ending naked fun! With cameras! If you walk in the door, you should know that's what you're signing up for! Charney, whose assistant gives him vintage Playboy magazines as gifts, made his vision abundantly clear to the Times reporter:
To illustrate the point, he grabbed a Time magazine from July 1973 and turned to an article about Mr. Hefner and Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse. There, the two publishing magnates were photographed working on their magazines and enjoying dinner around a table, surrounded by women, naked and clothed.
He said he was worried about preserving the company’s distinct culture.
Well, now he has to be worried about just preserving his company, which desperately needs to raise $5 million as the threat of bankruptcy looms. It's actually ironic that Charney is in this position, given that since he was a child he had little difficulty raising money and selling things. When he got the idea for AA, he raised money from the moms of his ex-girlfriends. And when he was a tot — a naughty ADD, dyslexic one, according to his father — he sold things:
What Dov may have lacked in discipline, he made up for in enterprise. At the Palomar, he recalled collecting rainwater in empty mayonnaise jars, which he sold to amused neighbors.
It's unclear if that business went bust because his customers realized they were getting ripped off.