Amy Walters

In the world of fast fashion, two U.S.-based companies loom large: Forever 21 and American Apparel. Both are based in Los Angeles, but the two could not be more different.

American Apparel proudly boasts that the clothes it sells are "made in the USA." In contrast, Forever 21 subcontracts with factories all over the world.

Dov Charney, American Apparel's Canadian-American founder and CEO, has a reputation. "I knew from a very early age — in elementary school — that I was going to rub some people the wrong way," he says.

What is Nordic cool?

Right now, it's a massive festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with artists and designers displaying art and culture from their very top sliver of the globe.

The festival arrives at what seems like just the right moment for Americans.

From the Danish modern furniture of the 1950s to the omnipresence of Ikea, Americans have long been attracted to the austere design of Nordic countries.

Lots of companies make products that don't have much in common, but AeroVironment specializes in two products that are very different — electric vehicle chargers, which keep cars like the Nissan Leaf on the road, and military drones. The Los Angeles-area firm is a leading manufacturer of small unmanned aircraft.