Local magazine challenges West Coast clothing companyWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
An upcoming report critical of a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer could land a local magazine in a legal dispute if it fails to retract information the company deems factually incorrect.
In its issue scheduled to hit newsstands Sept. 1, Toledo-based Clamor magazine features a three-part series of articles and a photo essay critical of American Apparel’s business model and sexual harassment claims made against company founder and CEO Dov Charney. The feature, said Clamor co-founder Jen Angel, also examines American Apparel’s “anti-union policies and its exploitive advertising against women.”
American Apparel bills itself as a progressive company that uses a “sweatshop-free” consciousness in making and promoting its products, which include T-shirts and related apparel for men and women.
“It’s great they’re sweatshop-free, but they’re not a company you want to support,” Angel said.
American Apparel responded to the Clamor coverage by sending an e-mail from global media relations director Cynthia Semon to Angel and Mariana Ruiz, the magazine’s politics co-editor, citing inaccuracies in the report and calling for a retraction and public apology posted online and published appropriately. Failure to do so, the e-mail said, would result in American Apparel taking legal action against the magazine. In a later letter, Semon said the company requested the magazine remove the articles from its Web site and either correct any and all false, defamatory and damaging assertions contained in the articles prior to further publication or refrain from further publishing the articles.
“If they want to write an opinion piece, it is perfectly their right to express their opinions with regards to our business practices and advertising,” Semon said. “We don’t have an issue with Clamor,” she said, “but we do have issues with what they are writing based on the facts that are incorrect.”
Angel said Semon mentioned one factual error found in Clamor’s coverage and the magazine issued a correction. Clamor incorrectly reported that a store manager at American Apparel had withdrawn her sexual harassment suit against Charney when in fact the matter was still pending. The employee, Mary Nelson, was never a store manager at an American Apparel retail store, Semon said in an Aug. 23 letter to Angel.
“They made these sweeping claims how inaccurate everything was but they failed to point out any other inaccuracies other than the one we corrected,” Angel said.
Semon sent a letter dated Aug. 23 with a complete list of inaccuracies American Apparel found in the Clamor report. In its piece on unionization efforts at American Apparel, the magazine failed to report the company pays its workers more than double the average wage in the garment industry, Semon wrote. She said the article about sexual harassment claims against Charney did not report that two of three lawsuits have been dismissed by the plaintiffs and without any finding of liability by Charney or anyone else at American Apparel. Clamor incorrectly reported in an online posting that American Apparel made $250 million in profits last year when it actually did $250 million in sales, she said.
Semon said she received an e-mail Feb. 14 from someone who identified himself as a Clamor reporter. The letter sought information on how American Apparel employees are advised to the unconventional work environment in the company’s retail stores.
After replying to that e-mail with her contact information, Semon said she received another letter from the reporter who gave his first name as Dez, but did not include a last name. She said she responded again with her full contact information, but received no reply. She then checked the Clamor Web site to find the reporter’s name, but because it was not listed she thought the e-mail to be illegitimate.
“There is no Dez listed as a staff writer,” Semon said. “That is a problem.”
Angel said the e-mails were actually from freelance writer Dez Williams, one of the contributors to the American Apparel report. She said she was surprised Semon did not treat Williams’ inquiries as serious.
Semon said he did not understand why Clamor used American Apparel for its own T-shirts and why the magazine at one time sought to sell advertising to her company.
“I certainly wouldn’t want ad dollars from a company I felt so strongly about,” she said.
Clamor co-founder Jason Kucsma responded in an e-mail.
“We’ve been using AA shirts for almost as long as they’ve been making them,” Kucsma wrote. “They make a great shirt, and we won’t deny that. We would just like to feel a little less creepy about supporting them. That said, we’ll be getting our next line of shirts from somewhere else after this whole scenario.”
As for the advertising inquiry, Kucsma responded by saying Clamor approached American Apparel several years ago about purchasing ad space because it was a time when the company was pushing its anti-sweatshop message. He said in the e-mail that it would have been an ideal fit for Clamor readers, and it was well before sexual harassment charges were brought against Charney.
Angel said despite Semon and American Apparel’s claims, the magazine stands by its report.
“Obviously we stand by the content,” she said. “I think if they were to sue us we would come out ahead and I’m sure their lawyers are telling them that, too.”
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