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American apparel fails to tell an inoffensive story

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In February, Paula Schneider, CEO of American Apparel said, “My goal is to make American Apparel a better company, while staying true to its core values of quality and creativity”. She continued: “there’s a way to tell our story where it’s not offensive”.

However, this week the company was thrown back into the spotlight, as its second advertisement was banned within six months, opposing Schneider’s original declaration.

The Advertising Standards Authority, the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media, deemed the advertisement for the product, “Lips Print Cotton Spandex”, as inappropriate, mainly due to the model appearing to be under the age of 16.

It’s not the first time the clothing retailer has come under scrutiny, with September’s ‘Back to School’ range, causing outrage through its sexualisation of school girls.

Last year’s advertisements were around the time American Apparel founder Dov Charney was asked to leave the company and then returned as a ‘Strategic Consultant’. He finally exited the company in December following misconduct, which included “breaching his fiduciary duty, violating company policy and sexual harassment”.

The Lips Print product would have come as no surprise under Charney’s management, after he stated in a radio interview prior to his exit:

“Sex is inextricably linked to fashion and apparel- and it has been and always will be. And our clothing is connected to our sexual expression.” Instead it came under Schneider’s ruling.

Though Schneider had plans to divert from the brands over sexualised image, she has had problems from company members who have been rallying to support ‘#TeamDov’ on social media. One employee even sent out anonymous emails, slamming the management at the company. Her ride so far has not been the smoothest, suggesting that her plans to change the American retailer’s over sexualised image have come with opposition.

Bosses at American Apparel backed up their most recent advertisement, confirming that the model is 20 and that the ad shows the thong from various angles, it does not just highlight her visible buttocks. In the ASA’s statement it was declared that American Apparel, “believed the image was consistent with standards contained in similar ads”.

The ASA was not satisfied with the ad, stating:

“The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told American Apparel (UK) Ltd to ensure future ads did not include images that inappropriately sexualised young women or were likely to cause serious offence.”

Published on Thursday 19 March by Rachel Gee

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