American Apparel's Rise and Fall Was a Whirlwind. This Former Employee Is Telling All.

Within the early 2000s, American Attire was taking off in Los Angeles and across the nation, promoting an irresistible picture of sexiness to then-teenage millennials. That was years earlier than founder and CEO Dov Charney was ousted amid sexual misconduct allegations, and earlier than the corporate infamously filed for chapter. However within the firm’s heyday, Kate Flannery was there to see all of it — a Philadelphia native, she moved to Hollywood in her 20s and labored her approach up the American Attire ranks, finally managing shops and scouting for fashions and workers.

She recounts the highs and the lows of being an American Attire worker in these early days in her new memoir, “Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles.”On this excerpt, Flannery recounts visiting Charney’s residence in Los Angeles with different American Attire workers.

Within the fall of 2005, I hit one 12 months in LA.

I celebrated by signing the lease on my very personal condominium—an attic studio in a hundred-year-old home that had been carved into flats in Frogtown, a tiny neighborhood beneath a nesting of freeway interchanges subsequent to the Los Angeles River. It was a surprisingly pure enclave. The concrete chute of the river has a pure backside there, and it was filled with shaggy blue heron diving for fish and toads that sang all night time. I by no means realized a metropolis like Los Angeles could possibly be so pastoral.

Off to the west was Forest Garden cemetery, planted filled with lifeless movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to observe over me. At night time, an enormous electrical crucifix atop the church there despatched a beam of sunshine to bounce round my darkish kitchen like a persistent mote of glitter.

It was my first time dwelling alone, and I cherished it. I ignored all of the preliminary drawbacks—the 5 freeway was so shut there was a everlasting rattle in my condominium, so it was like sharing the place with a poltergeist. However at night time, the hum of the visitors was a white-noise lullaby—I considered all of the individuals coming and happening their very own cosmic Californian journeys, and it introduced me consolation as I would drift off to sleep. Though I used to be so removed from residence, I wasn’t actually alone. And as soon as I used to be settled, I adopted a kitten and named her Squeaky Fromme, after the least culpable Manson woman.

My attic rose increased than all my neighbors’ rooftops and gave me a spectacular view of my new neighborhood. Proper throughout the river lay the Technicolor scrim of the San Gabriel mountain vary—it had a cinematic high quality, altering with the sunshine of the day. Within the morning, it mirrored pink. At night time, a psychedelic purple doom flickered in. So totally different from the relentless inexperienced of Pennsylvania. Watching sunsets by way of the skylight grew to become a hypnotic expertise—I used to be transfixed by all the brand new magnificence.

It was low cost for a studio, however costly for me—$750 a month and value each penny. Just some months in the past, dwelling in an organization condominium full-time would have been one thing aspirational to me, however I used to be beginning to understand that free hire was a Dov woman factor. A price of its personal. Having my very own condominium meant gaining access to a impartial territory the place I might assume, a spot to be really unbiased. I would not be compromising an excessive amount of of myself if I stayed right here, the place I might watch all of the craziness from a secure distance.

So long as I paid for my very own place, I would be okay.

I needed to remember to by no means lose it.

Quickly Dov moved into a brand new place, too. It was a serious improve from the thousand-square-foot Echo Park bungalow he’d been calling residence for the previous three years whereas he constructed the corporate from scratch. The working-class child from Canada swapped the common-or-garden digs for his personal Playboy Mansion within the Silver Lake hills—a four-million-dollar secure haven the place he might hold a watchful eye on the US Financial institution tower blinking from the downtown skyline.

All the ladies referred to as it the Large Home.

It was a terrific large Deco mansion on Apex Avenue, all of Los Angeles hanging round it like a diorama. A palatial bunker of kinds, it was constructed 100 years in the past by one other eccentric enterprise tycoon named Frank Garbutt, who designed the home to be a concrete fortress due to his debilitating phobia of earthquakes.

“An unshakable house,” the paranoid Garbutt decreed, so the partitions, the flooring, and even the roof had been constructed of concrete and lined in fireproof travertine. Every door was bolstered with metal. There have been no fireplaces. Tucked away within the Large Home, a household might survive any Californian pure catastrophe, and all with a view of the Hollywood signal, which captioned the home windows on its north facet.

When Caralee requested me to return to dinner on the Large Home, I used to be pumped. The acquisition of the property had been large information, however invitations appeared reserved for the hallowed internal circle of American Attire workers. Now I used to be counted amongst them, too—a visit to the Large Home was an acknowledgment of how far I had come, and irrespective of how I had been feeling about Dov recently, I used to be proud that I had made it that far up the ladder.

I earned my invite to the Large Home and I hadn’t needed to f*ck Dov to get it.

I used to be such a very good little feminist.

Caralee was ready for me on the foot of an enormous staircase that led to the Large Home’s entrance door. It was as imposing because the steps of the Lincoln Monument, dwarfing her—she appeared misplaced in entrance of them, like a excessive schooler on a subject journey in her Ray-Bans and jean shorts. She twisted a cigarette out underfoot and gave me a wave.

Caralee was again from Tel Aviv with a tan. I used to be again from Minneapolis with a chilly. We hugged as if we hadn’t seen one another in years.

She held out my arms and gave me the once-over.

“Did you get extensions?” she requested.

“No, my hair just got long. Did you dye yours?”

Caralee’s hair had golden bits woven by way of it like tinsel.

“No, I learned how to surf in Tel Aviv and the sun bleached it.”

After full inspection and approval of one another’s appearances, we climbed the steps to the touchdown in entrance of the door. The setting solar had produced a dreamy haze over town with solely the tops of palm timber poking by way of. Planes twinkled like taking pictures stars as they zoomed throughout the peachy-gold sky.

It was a wonderful view of town I used to be conquering.

“I’ll give you the tour,” Caralee stated.

I adopted her up the remainder of the enormous staircase and thru the entrance door.

We stepped right into a cavernous lobby with shiny cherrywood partitions, an ornate teak ceiling, and the noble scent of outdated wooden. The room was empty of furnishings however full of a dozen rolling racks loaded with pattern clothes, handwritten spec tags fluttering from each.

I reached for a cotton bathrobe that I had by no means seen earlier than.

Sz XS-XL, Cotton terry,
Miguel on 4th ground dye bathtub:
Salmon, lemon, stone, pink

It was a comfortable cotton gown with a Peter Pan collar that rested sweetly above a row of lined buttons. For much longer than the Seventies terry robes that grazed the midthigh, and far more demure. It appeared like a classic Nineteen Fifties housecoat, one thing to put on rollers and flip eggs in.

So home.

The Wifecoat was an anomaly amid the sensual disco-glitz look that American Attire had been evolving into today. What precisely was en vogue about being a housewife? After 9 months within the firm, marriage appeared like an old style idea to me, like tuberculosis. I did not actually see its industrial enchantment.

“Dov’s obsessed with the Wifecoat,” Caralee stated. “He’s shooting it upstairs right now.”

She gestured to a set of double doorways on the high of the steps, shut tight.

I questioned which poor dummy was getting shot in there and solely compensated with just a little little bit of highlight and a free iPod from Circuit Metropolis, the going charge for an attractive photoshoot with Dov.

What a rip-off, I believed. I had been stripped of all my delusions about modeling. I had performed that sport and misplaced, and now I used to be over it.

Sounds and good smells had been emanating from the kitchen, the one room alive with exercise. A lofted skylight poured solar onto Wedgwood blue tiles hand painted with greens alongside their French names, which appeared comically quaint as a crew of Dov ladies in crop tops buzzed round a pot of hen soup effervescent on the range. His favourite.

I acknowledged two of the ladies.

Aika was new on the town, from a rural nook of Japan and right here on a piece visa. I had seen her following Dov round on the Manufacturing facility, studying the ropes. Aika was older than all of us. She was in her early thirties, not that you just’d be capable to inform by taking a look at her.

Junie was a neighborhood woman, nineteen, contemporary out of personal faculty and already showing in advert campaigns. She was dedicated to Dov and the corporate, and even went so far as harassing one of many ladies who filed a lawsuit and getting slapped with one herself. Junie was a loyal topic—one among Dov’s favorites.

Aika noticed me and Caralee, and introduced over two champagne flutes, every with one thing floating in it. The waxy-sweet scent of jasmine wafted from my glass as I took it.

I appeared in and noticed a single bloom of tuberose bobbing round inside, threaded with silvery champagne bubbles.

“An aphrodisiac,” Aika stated.

I introduced the glass to my lips and took a sip. I waited to really feel one thing.

Junie drained her glass and hovered over Aika’s shoulder for a refill.

“Everyone must share,” Aika informed her, slapping her hand away.

Junie stomped brattily into the nook to sulk. She was at all times a dependable font of crabby teenage angle, however there gave the impression to be one thing else up her ass right now. She barely checked out us after we stated howdy and ignored Caralee’s invite to affix the remainder of the tour.

We left her within the kitchen and continued to the eating room, Aika main the best way. Large image home windows filtered golden gentle onto a protracted oak desk set with laptops as an alternative of plates. A row of women I acknowledged from the higher Manufacturing facility echelons sat typing away.

Faucet faucet faucet faucet faucet faucet.

There was one empty place setting on the head of the desk. Aika stopped to straighten the silverware.

Daddy’s seat.

How patriarchal, I believed, earlier than I might cease myself.

“Perfect, right?” Caralee stated.

“Huh?” I requested.

“The light,” she clarified.

I nodded—the home was stunning, there was little doubt about that—and I needed to see all of it. We climbed the steps that led to the main bedroom’s set of double doorways the place the photoshoot was happening.

“Who’s in there?” I requested.

Caralee put a finger to her lips, and we listened for a second.

“Not Junie.” She stifled fun. “She’s so pissed. She wanted to shoot the Wifecoat.”

That defined Junie’s black temper. She was jealous. One thing that Caralee by no means gave the impression to be.

Up till that time, I had at all times considered Caralee as the last word sexually liberated lady, however seeing her within the Large Home the place everybody needed to share, ready her flip within the sisterwife rotation to get shot by Dov after which printed on the backs of LA Weeklys in her most intimate moments—all of it struck me as very unhappy and exploitative.

Excerpted from STRIP TEES: a Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles by Kate Flannery. Revealed by Henry Holt and Firm. Copyright © 2023 by Kate Flannery. All rights reserved.

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