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Feb. 22 2010 - 12:30 am | 3,434 views | 1 recommendation | 15 comments

American Apparel, Dov Charney Still Betting On Soft-Core Porn Ads to Stave Off Financial Decline

It’s Pantytime! Thats right, it’s that special time of year again…. As a special treat we also put together a few pantylicious videos for your panty pleasure. -American Apparel

Dov Charney, sleazeball CEO behind hipster clothing emporium American Apparel, is known for lecherous behavior, especially when it comes to the young girls he photographs/films for his company’s controversial ad campaigns. The latest example can be seen in the company’s Panytime! videos (see above), part of an annual February sales promotion.

In the video, models Debbie, Danielle, and Kimbra take direction from Mae Elvis, AA’s resident “magic maker” — i.e. one of the people charged with bringing Charney’s vision of ad campaigns featuring half-naked, barely legal girls to life. Mae is heard giving direction throughout, saying benign things like “the ones where you guys are peeking over your shoulders is really cute” and “you guys want to do some fancy feet dancing?” But the creepout takes place at the end, when Mae requests that the girls all turn their nearly-naked butts to the camera, look over their shoulders, and say “Hey Dov.” If this isn’t an “Oh shit” moment, an indicator of the ever-increasing skeeviness of American Apparel’s ad campaign, then maybe it’s time I switched to Christianity. These girls just look young. Too young.

Sleazeball CEO: Dov Charney and one of his legions of young girls.

Sleazytime Explosion: Dov Charney and one of his legions of young girls.

And as a sidenote, by lecherous, I suppose vulgar may be a more fitting way to describe Charney’s behavior. For example, writer Claudine Ko discovered his fascination with masturbating in front of women in her 2004 Jane Magazine article “Meet Your New Boss,” where Charney stated:

Masturbation in front of women is underrated. It’s much easier on the woman. She gets to watch, it’s a sensual experience that doesn’t involve a man violating a woman, yet once the man has his release, it’s over and you can talk to the guy.

As we all know, 2004 was a lifetime ago. But since then, Charney seems to have only ratcheted up the controversial content of his ad campaigns as sales declined last year. Hence this latest campaign. And, while we are made to believe Charney is not on-site during the Panytime video included above, something tells me his Gollum-like form is slumped in a lounge chair just off-camera or out of frame, pants around his ankles.


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  1. collapse expand

    They’ve moved onto out-and-out pornstars, by the way. Faye Reagan shoots are all over my local American Apparel.

  2. collapse expand

    Um, as a former (runway) model, let me inform you that those girls are no where near “barely legal”. I started when I was 14, and promptly left because I was freaked out by how hyper sexualized the industry was.

    Those girls are probably 15, like most models you see on the runway and print. 16 is pushing it.

  3. collapse expand

    Man, you sound like a hater! What happened to you that you make such vile assumptions?? You are a huge turn-off, please get some psychological help with your anger issues!

    • collapse expand

      Do you have something insightful to contribute? If so, I’m listening. Do you know something about AA’s practices with it’s models? If so, I’m still listening.

      As far as vile assumptions? Charney portrays himself this way. The man has artfully monetized/commodified the stereotype of the perverted uncle — it’s a tactic that draws media attention to him like crack fiends to rocks (ahem, case in point included above). Anyway, look back at the old ads AA used to run back at the turn of the century. They were almost on to something. They used to attempt to uphold an aesthetic of some sort, tread the line between art and provocation, social consciousness (i.e. sweatshop-free clothing) and workers’ rights in their visual identity. But then that must not have been bold enough, sold enough t-shirts and hot pink unitards. Made enough money.

      It just seems Charney started with the seed of an idea that purported to offer a different way of doing business. Now it’s all boiled down to sex sells. It’s just lame. If that makes me a hater, so be it.

      Thanks for your comments.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    forgot to mention, hater, that not one of these young women are under-age, they just don’t cake on make-up! Maybe you are just used to looking at young girls with heavy gloppy make-up trying to act like matronly 25 year olds.

  5. collapse expand

    While I agree with your main sentiment, I think that you’ve got it backwards and are attacking the wrong guy.

    If you really want to do an Expose on this sort of thing, Dov Charney is a small fish. Total piker. Take on Newhouse/Conde Nast, the Walt Disney Corporation or Hearst Publications instead. Those are *multi-billion dollar Empires* with a vast global reach while Charney can barely afford ad space in the back of The Onion.

    Flip through the pages of any of their Fashion magazines, (where the cost of a single ad page is more than the average American makes in a year), and you’ll see that Fruzsina is right.

    Be sure to pay attention to the sheer opulence and decadence of the fashion ads that run in those magazines, they’ve got the Production Values of a Big Budget Hollywood Feature, where the average age of the models they use is about 14, and makes Charney’s stuff, where he uses of age models, (he uses his regular AA manufacturing workers, the modeling is a sideline for many of them, and he would have run afoul of Child Labor Laws if he hired sewers that were too young), look like an amateur home movie by comparison.

    Now at least Charney pays his workers right, unlike say Disney, who in the 1990s was paying Haitian workers 30¢ cents an hour to sew their Disneyland Park’s T-Shirts, but that got too expensive for them, so they moved their Operations to China, where they could get the same labor for 15¢ cents an hour.

    Which is why that they’re able to pay a Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus so much to peddle their crap.

    Did you know that Ms. Cyrus is going to have a cool billion dollars in her bank account, free and clear, by her 18th birthday?

    Disney doesn’t do a damned thing unless their return on their investment is 10 to 1, so a couple of questions…

    Is Hannah Montana twice as smart as Bill Gates? Because he was about twice her age when he made his first billion dollars.

    And what exactly is it that Disney is selling, and why are they so willing to use an Einstein like Ms. Cyrus and pay her so well?

    What are they getting out of that deal?

    Who is taking advantage of who in that equation?

    If you want to go after the sexual exploitation of America’s young women, with the goal of making money hand over fist off of them, then pick better, much sleazier, targets.

    Since I mentioned The Onion earlier, this video is pretty illustrative of Standard Practices throughout the Garment Industry:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/video/gap_unveils_new_for_kids_by_kids

    Nice to know where your jeans and t-shirts are coming from, isn’t it?

    • collapse expand

      Thanks for your comments NYC Labrets. You raise many good points. I’m sure there are plenty of deserving, multi-tentacled corporate giants I could have inserted in the place of American Apparel. Charney and crew are no doubt small game in contrast. And as Marjie Killeen points out in a later comment, Abercrombie & Fitch are pushing a somewhat similar agenda. But AA’s in-your-face ads, for the sake of producing in-your-face ads, have become painfully contrived.

      Re: what you say here: “Now at least Charney pays his workers right, unlike say Disney, who in the 1990s was paying Haitian workers 30¢ cents an hour to sew their Disneyland Park’s T-Shirts, but that got too expensive for them, so they moved their Operations to China, where they could get the same labor for 15¢ cents an hour.”

      I agree. AA deserves credit where credit is due. But as I mentioned to an earlier commentor, it’s the fact that Charney initially promoted AA as a different way of doing business (i.e. sweatshop-free labor, workers’ rights, etc.) that troubles, and perhaps, disappoints me.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    Yawwwwwn… How many “outraged” bloggers are going to post this video to increase their hits? rather than help Dov build fake controversy by pretending to be offended a campaign that would have been tame by 90s standards you could always just post some real porn. That would be a lot more fun and interesting.

  7. collapse expand

    There is a blurry line between selling fashion and selling sex. Clearly Dov Charney is on the far side of that normal curve.

    I don’t like the way that clothes are sold. But then, I’m not someone who buys clothes every week. I’ll even confess that I find high fashion to be incomprehensibly wacky.

    So my question is who does he think he’s targeting these advertisements to? Porn star wannabees? How big a market is that?

    And then we notice that he isn’t making money. Imagine that.

    • collapse expand

      It’s a good question Jake. I think these ads have always been more about establishing an overall identity in the cultural landscape than selling the specific items advertised — a strategy that for many years Charney excelled at. No doubt AA’s target consumer has been, and will continue to be, the coveted 18 to 35 year old demographic that every marketer in America has been trying to magically tap into for the last 50 to 60 years.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  8. collapse expand

    This strategy is similar to Abercrombie & Fitch’s – sell more clothes by showing models not wearing them.

  9. collapse expand

    So you prefer the image of worker’s rights and social consciousness to the image of sex with foxy 15 year olds? Good for you. You get a gold star for your wholesome taste in advertising. Lets not pretend there is something substantive at stake here, though.

  10. collapse expand

    Matthew, you seem to want to look behind the curtain, as if advertising was anything more than the representation of one man’s vile intentions. I find the American Apparel ads to be sexy and effective at what their trying to accomplish. I am glad that you post is labeled as an editorial, as that is what it is.

    American Apparel ads are geared towards the 18-25 year old female demographic, thus their models are all of this age. Regardless of what some of your commentators are saying, these models must be 18+ as otherwise Dov would have been truly accused and found guilty of underage pornography.

    You say that these girls look too young, that is a popular sentiment among the skeptical. I would have hoped for a more original argument than that. Besides, its just your opinion and a “thin” one at that. In my opinion, these girls a sexy as hell!

    All in all, Dov and American Apparel are creating good advertising and use the image of young women to their advantage, as they should.

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