In fact, go into your closet and check your labels.Chances are you own at least a couple of their logo-free, formfitting Classic Girl tees, customized by your favorite brand or indie designer.The giant production floors in the seven-story industrial warehouse are sunlight-filled spaces with clean stacks of brightly colored tees, massage therapists to assuage employees' muscle pains and pods of intent garment makers who have optional health-care packages, subsidized transportation and free English-as-a second-language classes. It's about telling the boss, 'F--k you.'" Merrily Lupo, a designer, has worked with him for over five years and says it's more like a family business with 1,500 employees.During breaks, workers socialize and laugh--I spy a couple snuggling in a stairwell. "You can ask him to borrow money and he'll usually do it," she says.Or maybe you've noticed their provocative, kiddie-porn-like ads in and other alternative rags. Down a bit, in smaller print, is the trademark SWEATSHOP FREE T-SHIRTS, MADE IN LA.A typical ad shows a girl wearing #8315 red boy briefs, photographed from her upper thighs to her bare midriff, sitting back on a laundry machine, and reads in big block letters: SUNDAY AFTERNOON. Originally, I'd wanted to write about the lives of garment workers.In fact, he essentially invented girly-cut printable tees after an Argentinean ex-girlfriend told him she couldn't stand wearing those big, American Hard Rock ones popularized in the '80s. You don't want something that's sexually driven, like panties, but then have them made in a horrible sweatshop. They drink beer, they have relationships, they have girlfriends." Plus, he adds, "It's fun to make money and pay people well." Posted on flyers and his Web site -- and screening on TV monitors in his vivid, meticulously designed retail stores -- is a barrage of propagandistic words promoting the company and Dov's new way of doing business.
At midnight, when Iris leaves to hang out with a friend, Dov gets distinctly quiet. Call me if you need anything," she says, giving him back his cell phone. It's got to be great for business." In his apartment that night, when he finishes, he promptly turns back to reading the rest of his e-mail. He clicks on one that displays a photo of a twentysomething Asian girl wearing tight jeans, lying in bed. " , Dov has had serious relationships with only three of his employees -- all cute, clean-faced young women. Then there was Merrily, who he says is the only girl he thought he could marry.Overall, his company is almost fifty-fifty gender-wise and women fill a lot of the higher positions. "He had a bag of clothes and he's like, ˜I just want to take one picture.'" One turned into who-knows-how many until security finally asked Dov to leave. Still, he was adamant about keeping Merrily with the company.Of course, he also has tons of attractive, diverse models -- many of whom are girls he's recruited on the street. You're relaxed, you're confident; your hair looks great, you're taking notes. "After three or so drinks, he asked to take some pictures," Spring, 25, told me during my L. A couple of days later, Spring was surprised to find that the photos were already on his Web site. You gotta be very carefu -- certain girls can handle it, certain can't." He clicks on a different folder. "I'm proud that it happens and we're able to deal with it," he says.Then I saw one of the American Apparel ads beckoning, "Come see what we're doing." So I thought I'd drop by their factory and find out whether a clothing manufacturer really could be profitable without the standard appalling employment abuses.What I discovered was not only a company trying to fix the system, but what Dov calls an "industrial revolution." "I think sex motivates everything," he says, peering at me from behind his boxy '70s frames.
At first, between incessant interruptions from his cell phone, he talked manically about progressive labor issues, manifest destiny, sexism, feminism; the mercantile lives of his grandparents and selling home-bottled "spring" water in Hellmann's jars as a child in Montreal.