Dov Charney and American Apparel: A Perfect Storm of Olympics Outrage?

Is there anything that could make the rather embarrassing American controversy over Olympics uniforms worse? Well, maybe.

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Is there anything that could make the rather embarrassing American controversy over Olympics uniforms worse? Well, maybe.

To recap, briefly, Ralph Lauren's already debatable (and most discussable!) designs, to be worn by athletes in the Games' opening ceremonies, were revealed to have been made in China. On Friday, as Connor Simpson wrote for The Atlantic Wire, Ralph Lauren released a statement promising that uniforms would by made for the 2014 Games in the United States: "We have committed to producing the opening and closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games."

But it was too little, too late for some. The New York Post had already made their feelings about the uniforms known: "Our Olympic heroes will be headed off to London this month — looking as if they’re decked out for a Hamptons lawn party," wrote David K. Li and Andy Soltis last week. In more recent letters to the editor numerous Post readers have expressed their further discontent as to the outfits with regard to both their styling and their provenance. "French berets and uniforms made overseas — welcome to the United States Olympic team (“Team USA, China-Made,” July 13)," writes Brian Donnelly of Highland Mills.

So what, if anything, could make this worse?

In an exclusive in Monday's Post, James Covert writes, "Since 2011, the Russian Olympic team has been in talks with Los Angeles-based American Apparel for a deal to design its clothing for the 2014 games." American Apparel! Russia! The source for this intel appears to be none other than the himself much-discussed American Apparel CEO Dov Charney:

“[Russian Olympic team representatives] said they didn’t want anything that was made in China,” American Apparel CEO Dov Charney told The Post. “It’s not just for the uniforms — it’s also the merchandise.”

Charney goes on to say that the US Olympic Committee (which did not respond to Covert's request for comment) has never approached American Apparel regarding clothing or merchandizing for Olympics attire. That's not terribly surprising given the variety of controversies he and his company have found themselves in as related to the "taste" of their ads and purported hiring standards as well as sexual assault allegations against Charney and tragedies that have occurred at the factory. Then there are the financial woes and possible impending bankruptcy.

Whether the Russian teams would actually wear outfits by American Apparel remains to be seen, but it's clear that this talk offers up something very important in any case: The chance for more outrage against Ralph Lauren and the US Olympic Committee. It's also a chance for Charney to insert himself in the conversation on one topic that can't really be held against him: the manufacturing of clothes locally; after all, "Made in America" has long been the stated value of the company. Covert writes, "'The banking oligarchy wrote off a US textile industry that was ailing in the late 1990s,' Charney said. 'Now, the industry is completely disposed to importing — they don’t know any other way.'”

Yet as recently as June, Charney has also said there's a chance American Apparel facilities might have to move overseas: "To say that I'm never going to import from overseas would be unreasonable. At this time our business concept is to make everything here. But I wouldn't rule anything out," he said. Which would make all of this, again, just good fodder for outrage.

What would American Apparel Olympics uniforms actually look like? Here's one early clue.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.