What happens when an edgy, lefty quarterly magazine of culture and politics takes aim at one of America's hottest, hippest, most socially conscious purveyors of casual clothing? In this case, American Apparel, known for its sexy “sweatshop-free” T-shirts, hits back hard, as the San Francisco-based co-founder of Clamor magazine, Jen Angel, is finding out.
Clamor's latest issue offers an unflattering profile of the company almost as famous for its sociopolitical coolness as for its highly sexualized ads.
In an article titled “Who's Your Daddy,” the magazine accuses the Los Angeles company not only of union-busting, but also of co-opting progressive values “to hype an otherwise less-than-progressive workplace.” Another piece takes swipes at company founder Dov Charney, against whom several women have filed sexual harassment claims, as a “self-professed masturbatory exhibitionist and equal-opportunity employee fondler.”
Not pleased, the company, which had $250 million in sales last year, is demanding retractions and threatening legal action against Clamor. It claims that the magazine's reportage on the alleged union-busting (written by a union organizer) is false, and that the article slamming Charney is defamatory.
Although it has acknowledged minor factual errors, Clamor, which is printed in Canada and whose editorial staff is scattered across the United States, is sticking to its guns.
“[Their concerns] don't touch the substance of our piece,” says Angel.
American Apparel spokeswoman Cynthia Semon says that no one from Clamor interviewed anyone at the company.
For her part, Clamor's Angel says that Dez Williams, one of the writers who contributed to the issue, sent three e-mails to Semon and made two follow-up phone calls, but got no response.
Semon says there were no phone calls and only two e-mails, and that she responded to both — even though the sender didn't sign his name or provide a phone contact and the messages “were so inarticulate and amateurish” that she concluded they were probably a prank.
Don't expect to see an American Apparel ad in Clamor anytime soon.