Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 21, 2023

Book review: A sordid peak behind the dressing room curtain

It was supposed to be the job you always wanted, the job of your dreams. The work was interesting, with an easy learning curve. The hours perfectly fit your lifestyle and goals, and you could work remotely, if you wanted. The pay was more than you imagined.

Yep, it was a dream job. But, as in the new business memoir “Strip Tees” by Kate Flannery, what if it became a nightmare?

It was 2004 and, almost-straight out of Bryn Mawr, Kate Flannery was struggling.

A year before, she landed a job in Pennsylvania that she thought she wanted but hated almost immediately. Undaunted, she stuck it out, saving her salary enough to afford a move to Los Angeles, where she didn’t know a soul and she didn’t have a job.

And then she met Ivy, who shrewdly asked Flannery if she was looking for work. She handed Flannery a card and invited her to be a model-entrepreneur at an up-and-coming new store, and when Flannery hesitantly said she was a feminist, Ivy said that was OK. Women supported women at their workplace, she said.

Days later, Flannery was an American Apparel “girl.”

At first, the job was mostly retail, but Flannery knew that she could work herself up the ladder if she proved herself to everyone. That including the CEO of the company, a charismatic man named Dov whom many of the other employees idolized and some slept with.

Flannery’s inner feminist was outraged at this, but when she kept quiet about one of his not-very-well-hidden dalliances, she found herself instantly promoted.

Traveling from city to city, hiring employees who fit the mold, opening stores and making decisions, the job was perfect.

Eventually, though, Flannery began to see American Apparel in a light she didn’t like. But how to extricate herself? The company owned her apartment, her car, her schedule, her wardrobe. The company owned her...

Before you tackle “Strip Tees,” there’s something to know: This business memoir is just that – a memoir – which means that it’s saucy, profane and irreverent in addition to containing a personal account of a corporate scandal that you may remember. If you can’t handle four-letter words or dressing room sex, don’t read it.

Just know that if you don’t, you’ll miss a rompy, edgy, uneasy tale that wouldn’t be out-of-place on a must-read list for any young college grad.

Th author perfectly captures that youthful, universal optimism that arrives upon graduation, the refusal to lose face with parents and the belief that you’re 10 feet tall and bullet-proof. Then she wraps those things up inside a meme that says her eyes are open and she’s tired of everybody’s mess, and how could you resist that?

This is an unusual kind of business book that will offer solace to a Millennial or Gen-Z’er who are job hunting in the economy, and that will serve as a cautionary tale for CEOs and managers. Remember the caveats, and “Strip Tees” could be the memoir you’ve really wanted.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.