American Apparel: Sexist Advertising or Genius Branding?

In May, the Gender Focus blog published an article commenting on American Apparel’s advertising calling it sexist, and that it is exploiting and objectifying women. The author even went on to say the models  “are selling themselves – body and sexuality – not clothes (hell, most of the time they are hardly wearing any clothes).” I highly doubt that American Apparel is promoting prostitution or human sex trafficking via its advertising. In fact, I know plenty of women who have wanted to be or are American Apparel models. It is not considered degrading but instead a big “fck you” to everyone who tries to tell women what they should or shouldn’t be. Don’t kiss on the first date, don’t wear this, don’t say that, women are always getting instructions on what is acceptable and appropriate.

As a previous employee, I feel that American Apparel does use overly sexual advertising to sell its clothes but it’s all a part of its branding. Everything from the CEO to what the employees wear, to the description cards that identify the clothing, to the images on the website – all of it is selling an image of sex, which is what makes it successful. AA is set apart by its uncanny ability to sell t-shirts, socks, and spandex to a whole generation of men and women under the premise that it will make them sexier. Their ads feature half naked young women in suggestive positions looking as natural as can be. Their font is Helvetica and 80% of everything in the store is spandex. Well at least they are consistent with brand messaging: Simple is sexy and less is more. I have seen many women return to AA because the clothes make them feel empowered, beautiful, and sexy, and I do not know another brand that is known for that other than Victoria’s Secret (don’t hear many complaints about that).

Comments on the Gender Focus post both agreed and disagreed with the idea that the ads are sexist and exploit women and blah blah blah. Quite frankly, there are other things to worry about in this world. American Apparel is a progressive company and a symbol for immigration and LGBT rights based in LA where social causes are supported and sweatshop free clothes are produced. One comment said, “Objectification is in the eye of the beholder, the women in these ads are only inferior if YOU are placing that label on them. Try to change your perspective and find the strength and pride, and yes, even sexual prowess in there, why shouldn’t that be something to be admired? Sustaining the taboo around sexuality is only feeding it power.” I agree.


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