Strip Tees by Kate Flannery

A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles

Kate Flannery is fresh out of Bryn Mawr College when she scores a dream copywriting job at Urban Outfitters. Her brand-new career in fashion isn’t what she expects, and she ends up “terminally bored, watching the clock tick backward at the Philadelphia headquarters.”

She soon leaves Urban behind and moves to Los Angeles in search of something fresh and exciting. It’s not long until she’s scouted for a job at American Apparel, an upstart Made in the USA clothing brand touting itself as a “progressive, provocative retailer, and manufacturer of knit t-shirts.” 

Founded by Dov Charney, a Canadian businessman who made headlines in 2004 after openly masturbating in front of a female reporter during an interview. The article is released right around the time Kate joins the company, a time when American Apparel is one of the fastest growing companies in the country.

Kate starts out in retail at the Echo Park store, promised that if she proves herself, she can do whatever she wants – write, take photos, design, travel – it’s all within her reach.

She finds her passion in scouting, and Charney is so impressed with the first girl Kate finds that he sends her to scout for the New York location, and from there to Boston, Philadelphia, and onward to every new store opening around the country. “I had scouted the girls like a cult devotee. I sized them up and took their pictures and handed them over for a paycheck and an empty promise,” she writes. 

Flannery's instincts about her reckless boss had been whispering to her since day one at American Apparel, however as she later explains, she felt hypnotized. The time came when she could no longer avoid it, and by 2005, three former workers had filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Dov, with Gloria Allred representing two of them. 

She finds herself asking, “how did I get so hypnotized? How did I get to a place where I was actually applauding a man with multiple sexual harassment lawsuits pending against him?” She remembers being eager to please Charney, driven by his mission, and cowed by his celebrity, but later “disgusted by his double standards, confused by his hypocrisy… It had all happened so quickly. I hadn't realized how deep I was falling,” she writes.

Flannery’s Strip Tees gives readers a rare glimpse behind the curtain at one of America’s most iconic for its time fashion labels. This page-turning account covers the rise and fall of American Apparel, the toxic workplace that thrived under its founder Dov Charney, and how its employees – young and naive as they were – were too often taken advantage of. It’s a fantastic read.

Kate Flannery was born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College and currently works for the Emmy Award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race. She is the lead singer and frontwoman for LA’s premier Little Richard tribute band, Big Dick. Strip Tees is her first book.

Strip Tees is available for purchase in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. Check for a distributor near you.

Avocado Diaries is part of the affiliate program and may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.