One of the more popular threads/topics in the forums has been about building a t-shirt company http://www.evancarmichael.com/Forums/vi ... ght=tshirt
so I thought it would only be fitting to have a profile on American Apparel founder Dov Charney
BusinessWeek says "The muttonchops-wearing entrepreneur has built American Apparel into a $250 million-a-year rising star of the rag trade, selling T-shirts, swimsuits, and underwear, all made at his downtown Los Angeles plant. Since November, 2003, when American Apparel opened its first store, 53 retail outlets in five countries have opened. Charney claims to have stores, such as one in Manhattan's Soho, that produce $1,800 a square foot in sales, seven times the apparel industry average
. He talks of building a $1 billion-a-year business in a few years, with 1,000 locations. He even wants to open stores in Hong Kong, exporting -- of all things -- American-made T-shirts to China.
But the freewheeling culture that Charney has cultivated at American Apparel is being put to the test. Charney is a self-described 'hustler,' who as a teen used to hawk T-shirts on the streets of his native Montreal
Under Charney's watchful eyes, American Apparel has become the epitome of hipster cool, with its slim-fitting, logo-free clothes; a savvy, sexy ad campaign; and a pro-labor philosophy
. Charney promotes his business as 'sweatshop-free,' and to back that up he pays his mostly Latino factory workers nearly twice the minimum wage, throwing in health insurance, subsidized lunches, and paid time off to take English classes on the premises. Such jobs -- let alone ones with perks -- are rare in the U.S. apparel industry, where 97% of the goods are imported. As a result, Charney has been the subject of positive profiles in such places as Time, The New Yorker, and CNN.
Charney has tried to incorporate some of that pro-labor message into the retail experience. Typically located in edgy neighborhoods such as Los Angeles' Los Feliz or Chicago's Wicker Park, his sparsely furnished stores feature concrete floors and stacks of American Apparel's reasonably priced merchandise, such as $15 fitted T-shirts and $45 hooded sweatshirts. In the windows you'll often find a TV, replaying one of Charney's many appearances in which he talks about manufacturing in the good, old U.S. of A. 'I have the highest-paid apparel workers in the world,' he boasts.
You'll also see the blatantly sexual side of American Apparel. The stores' white walls are dotted with product shots. Like the company's signature advertisements, these are grainy, seemingly candid photos of young people in various states of undress. In case shoppers miss the message that American Apparel's clothes are sexy, Charney sometimes pins up pages from 1970s Penthouse magazines.
To hear Charney explain it, he's connecting with an emerging youth movement, an underground network of urban hipsters from Brooklyn to Berlin. They surf the Internet for gossip and fashion trends and race to get copies of gritty lifestyle magazines named Vice and Purple. These twentysomething consumers don't mind being marketed to as long as the images look real, unvarnished, and match their own casual attitudes toward sex. Charney, in a characteristically grandiose flourish, likens his young customers to the free-spirits of the 1960s. 'Turn off the sound on Eyes on the Prize,' he says of the award-winning documentary on the civil rights era, 'and it looks like a fashion show.'...
Clearly, Charney is a creative entrepreneur who has successfully fought off global competition and the fickleness of the fashion trade. On the one hand, Charney feels caught in a culture war, a struggle between the old ways of doing business and the new: 'I should tone down? So I don't get in trouble? It's fascism. You're asking me to succumb to tyranny.' But later he sounds sincere when he says, 'I've made mistakes. There are bumps in the road to what I'm doing.' As he takes American Apparel to the next level, his biggest opponent could be himself."
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/co ... _mz017.htm