American Apparel Fires Creative Director and Adds Two New Executives

Executive Shift

As of Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nearly two months after Paula Schneider took over as the new head of American Apparel, she has fired the company’s longtime creative director, Iris Alonzo.

This is the second firing for Alonzo, who was dismissed last June allegedly for being affiliated with ousted American Apparel founder and former CEO Dov Charney.

But Alonzo was rehired in October to retake a job she had held for more than a decade.

According to Alonzo’s attorney, Keith Fink, the creative director was fired after she retained him as her lawyer to recuperate benefits and money she believes American Apparel owed her.

“When she was fired [the first time], Charney loaned her $30,000,” Fink said. “Part of the agreement of her coming back was that she would be reimbursed the $30,000 to pay Dov back. But they never paid her back the $30,000.”

He added that she allegedly was promised American Apparel stock, but that did not happen.

Fink said that on Monday, Feb. 16, he called American Apparel’s Chelsea Grayson, the company’s general counsel and senior vice president, about the issues. “My belief is that Iris was fired in retaliation for these complaints,” Fink said.

Praising Alonzo for her creative talent was Mathew Swenson, who worked as head of public relations and marketing at the clothing manufacturer between 2004 and 2008. He is the founder of IntelligenceLA.

“Iris played a very important role in developing the ethical and creative mission of American Apparel during the 11 years she was there and continued to work to preserve the integrity even after Dov’s departure,” he noted.

Also dismissed was Marsha Brady, who worked as a creative director under Charney.

However, sources close to American Apparel, who wished to remain anonymous, said this was not the case. Alonzo was fired in an effort to build the right team for the company going forward.

Meanwhile, Schneider, a veteran apparel executive who has headed up Speedo USA and Laundry by Shelli Segal, added two more people to her executive staff.

Filling a newly created position for chief digital officer is Thoryn Stephens. Stephens will be in charge of optimizing the Los Angeles company’s digital marketing, data analytics and e-commerce strategies.

Prior to joining the company, he was vice president of data science at Tillster, which was in charge of customer-engagement programs for the restaurant industry. Stephens is also a published scientist and was a molecular biologist in the biotech industry.

The second addition is Cynthia Erland, who comes on board as senior vice president of marketing. She will oversee the company’s marketing and communications programs. Erland most recently was senior marketing executive at Perry Ellis International and before that at C&C California, Universal Studios and E! Network.

“Both are innovators with deep expertise working with established brands,” said Schneider, who took on the job of American Apparel’s chief executive in early January. “They will be an important addition to our experienced, creative and passionate team.”

Schneider is trying to lead American Apparel into profitability after a tumultuous few years for the company, which has been racking up big debt in recent years. Since 2000, American Apparel has accumulated more than $300 million in net losses.

Charney founded the company in 1997 and grew the company into the largest apparel factory in the United States. He started out with blank T-shirts and expanded into almost every clothing category—all made in Los Angeles.

On June 18, Charney was ousted by the board of directors as the company’s president and chief executive for alleged misconduct and violation of company policy.