A man who calls himself “the most forward-thinking industrialist and entrepreneur of his generation” has opened a 100,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility to make apparel in America again. Given the American manufacturing zeitgeist, his timing couldn’t be better. Except, his name is Dov Charney.
Yes, the iconic, infamous founder of American Apparel is back with a new made-in-America brand: Los Angeles Apparel. It’s genius but it’s more than just another apparel brand—it’s Brand Dov.
We first published a profile of Dov Charney 13 years ago. And after his dramatic, painful ouster as CEO of American Apparel and its subsequent bankruptcy, we wondered in 2016 who was worse off, “American Apparel without Dov Charney or Dov Charney without American Apparel.” Now it’s looking like Dos is a phoenix rising from the ashes to rebuild his garment empire. In a shot across the bow of American Apparel’s new owners, Canada’s Gildan, the Canadian-born Dov noted on Instagram that someone had removed the painted mottos over the old factory.
Part One of Photo Series: DOCUMENTED SIGN REMOVAL. January 16, 2017 They sold the brand for 88 million. But what they left behind was the philosophy. I couldn't believe that they actually cut down the signs I had put up over 10 years ago of our statements philosophy. (See the first photo, shot on January 16, 2017 versus the ones below). The sign which read "AMERICAN APPAREL IS AN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION" was truncated to read "AMERICAN APPAREL" only. The sign, in Spanish, which read, "AMERICAN APPAREL ES UNA COMPAÑIA REBELDE" [translated: American Apparel is a rebel company] was completely removed. They sold the brand to the highest bidder, and they undermined the company's philosophy and soul. Shameful. #losangeles #dovcharney
The new Los Angeles Apparel is a bare bones startup that gets back to Charney’s roots. He’s giving his 400 workers company equity, producing smaller runs and what he has called “artisanal garments.” Los Angeles Apparel is aiming to partner with producers who need just-in-time products and no budget for huge inventory orders.
Retail Dive has a definitive and exhaustive rundown of the life and death and life of Dov Charney’s vision. In that profile Charney declares, ““Everybody’s relying on sweatshop labor — and I’m not. I’m not saying I’m an angel, but the entire foundation of my business doesn’t rely on 60 cents an hour… I want to make Los Angeles proud. My goal is to disrupt the notion that we can’t make great products without relying on cheap labor.” Reportedly, Charney often sleeps at the factory.
Dov and Los Angeles Apparel recently signed a distribution deal with TSC Apparel, the t-shirt and hoodie wholesale distributing giant that helped Charney’s American Apparel grow into such a powerful brand. TSC will also continue to offer American Apparel items, a brand bought by Gildan Activewear last year for $90 million. In a grim bit of irony, on the TSC site, the American Apparel and Los Angeles Apparel pages look nearly identical.
When Charney launched his American Apparel company in 1989, he himself was the driving force but he was also behind the scenes. It was about American Apparel, not Dov. Now, as Charney launches his new Los Angeles-based Los Angeles Apparel, the brand is flanked by a media brand titled That’s Los Angeles By Dov Charney.” That media site describes itself, in part:
“The photographs featured here are part of an ongoing body of work entitled, “That’s Los Angeles,” which documents the often overlooked themes of the Los Angeles landscape – subjects such as architecture, signage, storefront facades, and street scenes.
Charney believes that Los Angeles has become a place of global intrigue, and that these subjects, composed by artistic individuals, are an apt reflection of the city’s unique commercial culture. With this project, he hopes to capture mementos of Los Angeles throughout its transformation and creative renaissance.”
Now it is about Brand Dov as much as about the apparel brand. It’s a comeback story about the man, the brand name on the tag is almost beside the point.
Charney may find a new, far more challenging apparel landscape for Los Angeles Apparel though with nobody to blame but himself. When American Apparel was being lauded for its tri-blend fabrics and modern, forward fashion fits 15 years ago, it had few competitors.
Today, the landscape is filled with American Apparel imitators, offering all manner of fits and cuts, blends and tri-blends. The trailblazing done by America Apparel made today’s market possible—and that much harder for Los Angeles Apparel to thrive.