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Charting The Rise and Fall of American Apparel and Former CEO Dov Charney

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It's hard to keep track of the ongoing (sweatshop-free) soap opera that is American Apparel. The LA-based brand—which rose to fame in the mid-2000s thanks to its hipster-faved basics and controversial soft-core ads—and ousted founder Dov Charney continue to play legal ping-pong in the headlines and courts; most recently, the company unleashed a flurry of documents that detail his alleged misconduct.

To help us all untangle exactly who did what, we've put together a brief history of American Apparel and its embattled former CEO. Feel free to share your favorite AA greatest moments in the comments below.


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1989: Canadian Dov Charney founds American Apparel. In his autobiography, he recounts selling Hanes t-shirts wholesale from his Tufts University dorm room, eventually dropping out to pursue his business full-time.

1990: Charney begins manufacturing his own tees in in South Carolina.

1997: American Apparel relocates from South Carolina to LA.

2004: Charney famously pleasures himself during an interview with Jane magazine reporter Claudine Ko.

2005: AA lands #218 on Inc.'s list 500 fastest-growing companies.


An ad from 2005.

American Apparel

August 2010: AA faces bankruptcy. Charney reveals to Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he hopes to "grow old with our customer [and become] a traditional American clothier." He tells the Village Voice that "nobody wants to be a hipster" and that AA is leaning towards a more "preppy" look.

March 2011: Then-20-year-old former AA employee Irene Morales sues Charney alleging sexual assault during the eight months she worked at the company. In a statement, the company says it believes "[the employee's] lawyers...are engaged in an illegal conspiracy to extort money from American Apparel."

March 2012: The $260 million "sex slave" case against Charney is settled behind closed doors. Also, AA celebrates its 15th birthday.

December 2012: Yet another suit emerges against AA's CEO, this time by a former Malibu store manager alleging wrongful termination, discrimination, and assault.


Dov Charney makes an appearance in an ad that wasn't banned by the ASA.

Business Insider

April 2013: The UK's Advertising Standards Authority bans AA's suggestive ads.

August 2013: AA buys NY-based basics brand OAK. The move is seen as beneficial to the ailing AA and growth-ready OAK (which opens two stores in LA the following year).

June 2014: Charney is forced to step down as president and CEO over "alleged misconduct."

December 2014: Charney is officially fired, and past and present employees declare their #TeamDov support online. Down to his last $100,000, the ousted CEO reveals to Bloomberg reporter Trish Regan that he's living on his friend's couch and that he feels betrayed by NY hedge fund Standard General for pushing him out. Meanwhile, WWD reports that AA shares are up 44.9%; the company also slashes its LA factory workers's hours.

May 2015: The ousted CEO sues Standard General, alleging that the independent investigation that resulted in his firing was a "sham."

June 1, 2015: American Apparel successfully files a restraining order against Charney to keep him from "criticizing the company or seeking to remove its board members," according to the LA Times.

June 14, 2015: Board member David Danziger steps down, reports Apparel News, leaving new CEO Paula Schneider to take his place.

June 19, 2015: Charney files a $30 million anti-defamation suit against AA, the same day that the company filed court documents as part of an "anti-SLAPP motion, intended to halt what [American Apparel] calls Charney's frivolous lawsuits," reports the LA Times.