In Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles (Henry Holt & Co.), a symphony of erotic dilemmas and ethical quandaries, one finds the trappings of modern capitalism parading about in a seductive dance, in the very heart of the fashion industry, a terrain known for both allure and deceit. Our heroine, Kate or Flannery, a young sprite fresh from the academia’s embrace, casts herself into the world of American Apparel, her eyes ablaze with the brilliance of ethical capitalism, her heart throbbing for feminist empowerment.
In its halcyon days, company straddled the delicate line between minimalist chic and explicit allure, its garments as notorious as they were innovative. Underneath the veneer of its purported anti-sweatshop stance and its celebration of diverse beauty lay a labyrinthine and complex creature, dancing to the erratic and often predatory symphony conducted by Dov Charney, the founder, the firebrand, the fulcrum upon which the entire enterprise teetered.
Launched as a whisper, a hint of revolution in an industry notorious for its moral flexibility, the company grew to a crescendo that resonated across malls and hearts alike. A brand that seemed a harbinger of a new age, yet hid beneath its garments shadows and folds where lurked the older, darker truths of exploitation and excess. Thus it stood, American Apparel, a paradox wrapped in cotton, a challenge and a charade, a beacon and a warning, the very embodiment of the duality of our times.
Yet, the landscape is marred, poisoned by the virile antics of Charney, a man whose appetites wander lasciviously over the boundaries of decency. Here, in the glare of minimalist ads and the provocative threads of clothing, the narrative unfolds with a sharpness reminiscent of a razor’s edge.
Flannery’s voice, a melodic cascade of humor, frustration, and moral turbulence, draws the reader into the maze, where sexual liberation jousts with exploitation, where the scent of ambition mingles with the stench of abuse. Her journey, fraught with bad decisions bathed in good faith, evolves into a series of chilling revelations, punctuated by the firing of the loathsome Charney, a man whose antics become synonymous with the corporate phallus itself.
What we have, in this sordid tale of fashion and faux-feminism, is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma, elegantly adorned in the sheer tees of Indie Sleaze. The prose moves with a balletic grace, capturing the zeitgeist of a pre-#MeToo world, exposing the flesh and sinew of a system where women’s bodies are currency, where exploitation dances in the guise of sex-positivity.
Strip Tees, in its vivid portraiture and shocking tableau, stands as a testament to an era, a snapshot etched in the acid of corporate misogyny. It challenges, it provokes, it unsettles. Here is a book not merely to be read but to be absorbed, to be wrestled with, in all its challenging glory. A narrative as riveting as it is relevant, an exploration as engaging as it is universal, narrated with the force and finesse that makes it, unequivocally, worth the wait and the read. A tale spun with the stylistic panache that would make one pause, reflect, and perhaps shudder at the mirror it holds to our world.