Is there an employment bureau somewhere that requires prurient men to wear '70s-style aviators with a molester mustache under a half-balding mess of hair? Because Terry Richardson, Olivier Zahm, and Dov Charney pretty much have the market cornered.
Richardson is a major force in the photography world—he's not going anywhere—and Zahm has never professed to be anything other than what Purple magazine embodies, but Charney's recent employment faux pas have reminded me again of just how raunchy this CEO is.
American Apparel's notorious ads didn't use to bother me years ago, when I was too innocent to realize how young those girls were, or how exploitative their positions—both literal and psychological. But after a few years in New York of, shall we say, learning the intricacies of the "artistic" male's mind, especially when there's art/pubescent girls concerned, the ads are really starting to creep me out.
I'm no prude—I enjoy nudity as much as the next guy, especially for the sake of art—but when StyleCrave has to narrow down a publicly traded company's ad history to pick just the 50 most overtly pornographic photos, I'm going to call foul.
When the U.K. bans an AA campaign that used a "partially nude model, who appeared to be under 16, in a series of images that suggested she was stripping off for an amateur-style photo shoot," I'm going to call foul. (I'm glad to report she was actually well over 16, but still.)
When a giant NYC billboard of a young women dressed only in tights, bent over, legs spread, gets spray-painted with the tag "Gee, I wonder why women get raped?" I'm going to call foul.
The way I see it, there are two issues here:
One, the use of super-young girls in super-raunchy scenes. It all feels a little too Roman Polanski.
Two, the portrayal of women in general as sperm receptacles, not individuals. Maybe it's just me, but something about exhibiting the female species as a faceless object open for indiscriminate sex use seems wrong. I mean, the NYC ad was literally an ass and vagina. Really Dov Charney? That's how you want your business represented? Really?
Do you really need to have the model crying tears down her dirty face while sitting nude in a sordid room in order to sell tube socks?
The bottom line, though, is whether or not Charney's particular brand of kiddie porn pays. Because if it pays, it'll continue. If not, not. After massive layoffs last year, American Apparel’s value dropped by almost 40% in May—a direct result from an announcement that it was struggling to pay back an $80-million loan from Lion Capital. All told, the company has been operating at almost $18 million over budget since last quarter.
Will American Apparel go out of business anytime soon? No. But the obvious faltering in both the business structure and the human resource department could mean Charney will have to change his tactics.
And then he should change his sunglasses.