Dov Charney finally, officially, got sacked yesterday. The disgraced founder of American Apparel was replaced by Paula Schneider, a retail exec who has worked at BCBG and Laundry by Shelli Segal, and has consulted for plenty more significant brands.
It was a nearly inevitable end. Charney, regardless of whether he acted in a pervy way with employees, was not managing the business properly, and it was the American Apparel board's responsibility to holler "Bye, Felicia," right at Dov.
I have little doubt that Charney will fight his termination in court. He's obsessed with the company he founded in 1988 and he's not going to give up on it just yet. But here's hoping he does give up at some point, because I'd love to see him build a new brand.
Here's why. Back in the summer after Charney was sort-of fired, I wrote about how I believed that American Apparel was no longer culturally relevant, no matter what happened to him. And I still believe that. Schneider's resume is impressive and she is likely capable of turning the business around, but I don't think American Apparel will ever really mean anything to anyone ever again.
What could mean something is a new Charney venture. He may not be a fashion designer in the traditional sense, but the t-shirt guy has a better understanding of branding and marketing than 99.9 percent of his traditionally educated peers. Whatever American Apparel was to you — a leader in the Made in the USA revival, a maker of normcore jeans that were somehow sorta sexy too, a place where hipsters go to die — it meant something.
I suppose Charney likely signed some sort of non-compete clause that the board will want him to honor. Regardless, there will be a point down the line where he'll be allowed to start over, and given what I've learned about Charney through my reporting over the years — as well as my overall obsession with American Apparel, The Brand — I'm confident he will try.
My hope is that Charney is more level-headed when it comes to his next business: that he finds a good partner to handle the financials, and that he acts in a professional manner with which all employees, not just some, are comfortable. But I'm not going to deny that I would like to see more from him. Retail is all about second, third and fourth acts. It's about transformation. If Charney can channel the energy he's been using to hold on to American Apparel into a new concept, then we'll have something real to talk about.