...is still the Gap. I know at this point I'm shooting fish in a barrel, but I completely concur with Alex Blagg's barfing all over American Apparel. Is Dov Charney's chain not the clothing equivalent of Whole Foods? Put "sweatshop free" on a tee shirt or "free range" on a fucking chicken breast and suddenly the two become sexy. Am I the only one who misses concept-free shopping, the days when buying dinner or basic attire had no meaning attached to them?
What I really object to, though, are Mr. Charney's arrogance and ignorance. Apparently he asked an editor at Jane magazine if he could masturbate in front of her during the interview; then, he balked when female employees resented his bringing sex into the workplace. Did someone just plunk Mr. Charney into a 2005 office environment from the moon, circa 1310? Has he never heard of workplace codes, of sexual harassment? The current climate is such that a male executive told me he can no longer say to a female co-worker something as banal as, "Did you get your hair cut?" for fear of subjecting her to the "male gaze."
It's funny because when I see peach-colored sweatpants and yellow underwear beaming from a new "American Apparel" outpost on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, let's say, I'm reminded of going in and out of discount stores with names like "Kleinmans" with my mother on Delancey Street in 1983. Sure: at AA you can choose your tank top or bra off a chrome rack and not rummage for it at the bottom of a torn, industrial-sized cardboard box, but when it comes down to it, the items are still schmattes, and Mr. Charney is still a schmatte salesman.
That's what I'd like to see. That's what would really be ironic. Mr. Charney in a handlebar mustache and polyester shirt is not ironic, it's pathetic, like he was an extra on the set of Boogie Nights and can't let it go. What would be cool would be for Herr C to return to his roots: to don a yarmulke, gain a paunch, get married and hire his wife as the only other salesperson, and sit behind a desk in a tattered storefront deep in the bowels of Norfolk Street where he'd peddle ladies' intimates with a gruff yet loving manner. Were he to stock quality items at decent prices, were news of his store to spread by word of mouth, now that would be the balance between recherche and revolutionary for which he seems to strive.
PS--and this is a tangent--isn't this old-fashioned approach what high-concept outfits like the publisher FSG embrace? The company justifies its ratty offices and low salaries with the explanation that the money goes into clients. In 1997, I interviewed with the venerable house for an editorial position, the salary of which was 18K. 18K!!! When I asked how to live in New York City on that dime, the editor replied, with no trace of humor, I was to rent a tenement apartment on the Lower East Side with five of my girlfriends.
So it all comes full circle. Of course, today I couldn't damn near afford an apartment on the LES, so I guess some things have changed. Point is, the ostentatiously shabby thing has been done, too.