American Apparel’s First Female CEO Is Bringing Forth Some Change

American Apparel’s First Female CEO Is Bringing Some Big Changes

Courtesy of American Apparel
Courtesy of American Apparel

American Apparel has been an example of that stereotypical business company. Ever since it was founded in 1991 by Dov Charney, the company was involved with employee complaints, sexual harassment suits, and has maintained a reputation for being perverted. In fact one allegation against Charney was that he imprisoned an employee in his home as a sex slave.

After the allegations kept coming and the company’s dwindling profits began to be a consistent cause for concern, a committee launched an internal investigation and ultimately let Charney go.

 To replace him, they appointed Paula Schneider, a seasoned executive who’s had much success in companies like Warnaco and Gores Group. And her task is a big one: changing how consumers think about the brand and reinvigorating its profitability. She has one goal, to turn this business around.

Marie Claire has successfully interviewed Schneider to find out what those changes are.

What’s the vision for the new American Apparel? How do you see it differently than your predecessors?
“American Apparel is an unbelievably strong brand, and right now we’re at a tremendous opportunity with the company. It’s really my job to ensure the financial health of it.”

How are you changing or shifting the business model that you inherited?
“This is a company that needed tweaking. It didn’t have a broken business model, but it needed better planning and forecasting, an understanding of the opportunity to move product and a better calendar on the design program. More of a look at what’s working for us and what’s not—basically making sure that it stays the cool brand it always has been.”

What do you think the toughest part of your new position is or will be?
“From a product standpoint, we’re in 20 countries with retail stores and we have e-commerce as well. Stabilizing our business is my mission. We’re the only company that fully serves the millennial consumer—from the 15-year-old boy to the 33-year-old woman. That’s really amazing. We have an awesome mix and assortment of product—we just need to make sure it’s getting the display and attention it deserves.”

Do you plan to change up the marketing, then? Will that help it stabilize?
“This is an edgy brand, and we have to get past the idea that it’s just a clothing brand. It’s not. Our customers expect social commentary; they expect it to be a part of their lives. We’re an interesting company in that we are the largest manufacturer of apparel in North America. I don’t think people know that. And that comes with a call to action—if we want to keep jobs in the United States, we have to make our product relevant for people around the world.”

What are the missed opportunities others may have overlooked?
“I think that there’s a huge opportunity in e-commerce. We’re actually redoing our site, and you’ll see that over the next couple of months. It’s going to be more functional, more interactive. Just cleaner and easier to navigate. We’re also working on the shopping experience in stores—a cleaner, easier to navigate experience. A more messaged version.”

American Apparel ads have always been a bit salacious—do you see that as part of the brand DNA?
“I think it’s fluid. We will have some sexy ads, we do have lingerie and that is sexy, and it’s obviously a part of what we do here. But recently, actually before I signed on, we did a great ad campaign with Brendan Jordan, a 15-year-old in Las Vegas, who went viral after he was filmed vogueing for the camera, and we used him as a spokesmodel. At 15, he came out, and we celebrated that. I think that’s really important and cool and our brand.



What’s the biggest misconception people have about your position or being a CEO?
“Most people in different groups don’t really understand the CEO, or a public CEO, and that’s hard. It’s hard to explain this job unless you’ve experienced it or worked for a CEO or had exposure to the position. There’s a myriad of obligations that take up a lot of time, to build stakeholder value. There’s really important layers that are constantly shifting. It’s my job to orchestrate, and move forward strategy so that everyone can prosper. But the thing is, a CEO is not a solitary position—one person can’t do it all. You have to have great people to work with. Thankfully, I do.”

Source: Marie Claire