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American Apparel Advertisements are a series of advertising campaigns designed by and printed for the Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer, distributor and retailer American Apparel. Due to the often suggestive nature of the company’s brand advertising strategy, numerous instances of its promotional images have roused criticisms for being sexist and objectifying to women.
American Apparel was founded in 1989 by Canadian entrepreneur Dov Charney. In the early 2000s, company became known for their provocative advertisements featuring scantily clad young female models. In 2005, the company received the “Marketing Excellence Award” at the LA Fashion Awards ceremony.
Woody Allen Billboards
In 2007, two American Apparel billboards featuring Woody Allen dressed as a Rabbi from the 1977 comedy film Annie Hall were unveiled in New York and Los Angeles (shown below). Allen subsequently sued the company for $10 million and stated that he found American Apparel ads “sleazy” and “infantile” in a December 2008 deposition.
Legalize LA and Legalize Gay
In early 2008, American Apparel underwrote the “Legalize LA” campaign to promote amnesty for illegal immigrants in California (shown below, left). In November that year, the company launched the spin-off campaign “Legalize Gay” in protest to the passing of Proposition 8 in California, which banned all same-sex marriages in the state (shown below, right).
In 2009, American Apparel ran an advertisement for their “flexfleece” hoody in Vice Magazine, which contained a series of photographs featuring a 23-year-old woman wearing the hoody in various states of undress (shown below).
The British advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) subsequently banned the campaign for using what they claimed appeared to be a woman who was under 16 years of age.
Pubic Hair Mannequins
In January 2014, an American Apparel store in New York City put up window displays featuring mannequins with prominent pubic hair bulging from their underwear (shown below).
On January 16th, the NYC news blog Gothamist published an article about the displays, which included a statement from American Apparel marketing director Ryan Holiday who explained the reasoning behind the pubic hair.
“The display was created for that store specifically. American Apparel is a company that celebrates natural beauty, and the Lower East Side Valentine’s Day window continues that celebration. We created it to invite passerby’s to explore the idea of what is “sexy” and consider their comfort with the natural female form. This is the same idea behind our advertisements which avoid many of the photoshopped and airbrushed standards of the fashion industry. So far we have received positive feedback from those that have commented and we’re looking forward to hearing more points of view."
Challenger Disaster Photo
On July 3rd, 2014, the American Apparel Tumblr blog reblogged a photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. After the post was criticized for being insensitive to the tragedy, it was swiftly deleted.
The company subsequently tweeted an apology for the photo, claiming it was re-blogged by an employee unaware of the event. The tweet has since been removed.
“We deeply apologize for today’s Tumblr post of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The image was re-blogged in error by one of our international social media employees who was born after the tragedy and was unaware of the event. We sincerely regret the insensitivity of that selection and the post has been deleted.”
In the summer of 2014, American Apparel launched the “School Days” ad campaign, which featured photographs of young women posed in a variety of school settings. A particular set of photographs for a mini skirt drew criticism for being “sexist” and “fueling Lolita fantasies” (shown below). On August 8th, The daily Beast published an op-ed piece by senior editor Tim Teeman, who defended the company against the “Lolita” criticisms.
On June 18th, 2009, YouTuber UCBComedy uploaded a parody video in which a photographer (played by actor Nate Dern) takes sexually explicit photographs of American Apparel models (shown below, left). On March 15th, 2010, Funny or Die published a parody video in which a photographer shoots a transgender model for a new product line titled “Trans Am” (shown below, right).
On March 10th, 2014, YouTuber Ben C uploaded a recording of a computer screen navigating a page on the American Apparel website, during which the mouse cursor is used to change a model’s clothing color and pose to the beat of the 1989 eurodance song “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic (shown below).
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