A Guide to Who's Screwing Who in American Apparel's "F--- the People" Ad

Last Updated May 6, 2010 1:57 PM EDT

American Apparel (AAP) CEO Dov Charney is tempting fate with a new trade ad that states, "Fuck the brands that are fucking the people." It only draws attention to the fact that CEO Dov Charney has been accused of sexually harassing his employees. (None of the suits were proven.)

The ad's ostensible purpose is to highlight AA's "socialist-capitalist fusion," but no one cares about that. This is what people will think:

Charney has gone out of his way to hint that he sleeps with the models who appear in his ads. Charney shoots his own ads, which makes you wonder whose hairy legs are sticking out from underneath this model in an AA ad for ... well, I don't even know what that ad is for. Like the new trade ad, it's not exactly "product-focused." And the new ad will give everyone cause to remember an infamous interview with Jane magazine in which he pleasured himself in front of the reporter who wrote the article. And that he wanders around in his underwear while at work. Classy!

Did I mention the child-porn allegations (which AA denies)?

The trade ad's not talking about actual sex, of course. It's using the expletive to refer to the other meaning of the term, to cheat people. And Charney doesn't have a great record there, either. About 1,500 of his workers were forcibly laid off in 2009 after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency found they were illegals.

Or, perhaps the people being cheated are consumers of other brands? In fact, AA hasn't been straightforward with its own customers either: Those girls you see wriggling around in their underwear in AA's ads are often not, as the ads claim, lucky employees of AA. Frequently they're professional models or the occasional porn star.

Deep breath. For the price of a trade ad, Charney has generated another hundred acres of earned media and blog chatter. And it's well within AA's "sex and politics" message box. I've never bought an item of clothing from AA and yet the brand feels familiar to me in a way that Benetton never will.

Charney is an evil genius.