Style Over Substance


In light of American Apparel’s recent financial troubles, Bridget Fitzsimons questions whether or not the company deserve to be saved from financial ruin

American Apparel is a name that is synonymous with a certain type of style. The tight leotards, plain t-shirts and leggings serve a certain purpose. The company claims to provide a service; plain multi-functional clothes that are made by workers who are often migrants and paid fairly. Similarly, the company produced an iconic t-shirt that read “Legalize Gay”, and donated it to several thousand people in an effort to raise awareness of the problems and issues facing the gay community. It is for these reasons that you may think that American Apparel produces items that will fit in your wardrobe and assuage your conscience.

Financial troubles have plagued the company in recent times. However, it was recently announced that their main creditor would be renegotiating the terms of their loan to the company, so it seems as if American Apparel are safe for now.

However, the company seem to think that their good work on behalf of migrant workers and the gay community gives them a free pass to treat women as objects, demeaning and using them however they see fit, both in advertising and in the workplace.

American Apparel’s advertisements have long faced the wrath of feminists. Usually depicting lithe young woman in various states of undress, the company’s advertising seems to thrive upon constantly reaching new levels of objectification and bad taste. One ad features several snapshots of a woman lying apparently topless on a bed, with different expressions of sexual excitement. The main image features the woman sitting on a sofa, topless, her knee-sock-clad legs covering her breasts. The slogan reads “Safe to say she loves her socks”. This is one of several advertisements that blatantly uses the pornified female body to promote clothing, with little other justification than wanting attention.

President, CEO and founder of American Apparel, Dov Charney, is also not known for promoting American Apparel as a brand that is inclusive or respectful of women. He has been accused of sexual harrassment several times and in 2004, Claudine Ko of Jane wrote an article that painted Charney as a sex-obsessed man, obsessed with women, and having little respect for personal and sexual boundaries. She notes how he relates everything back to sex and how she eats dinner with Charney, while he refers to her constantly as his “date”. His personal assistant refers to herself as “his bitch”. This is not the behaviour of a man who has healthy attitudes toward women or sex.

“If you buy the clothes produced by this brand, you are supporting a company that proudly markets itself as sexist and demeaning to women.”

Upon glancing on American Apparel’s website, the Legalize Gay section reads like a passionate statement standing up for human rights. Similarly, the Legalize LA campaign, which fights for immigrant rights, is also a manifesto for real social change. These two articles read like a slap in the face for women everywhere. With campaigns for immigrants and the gay community, did American Apparel run out of respect for other oppressed groups? It seems that Charney believes that American Apparel cannot support women. If you are a gay or immigrant woman, it would seem that Charney has a certain amount to offer you, but don’t count on any form of respect, from him or his company.

The worrying part is that American Apparel has completely infiltrated our university mindset. UCD Fashion and Design Society (FADS) is sponsored by American Apparel and it seems to have become the uniform of choice among certain groups of students. It is worrying that the company’s presence on campus has gone by with little or no comment from students and staff. By allowing American Apparel a forum to advertise in UCD, FADS is supporting a company that has no respect for women and allowing them into a place that is supposed to be free from objectification and degredation.

The simple fact of American Apparel is that their good work for migrant workers and the gay community will forever be overshadowed by their constant disregard of women. If you buy the clothes produced by this brand, you are supporting a company that proudly markets itself as sexist and demeaning to women.

You may feel that you are doing good by supporting migrants, ethically sourced clothing and the gay community, but the constant objectification of women by this company cannot be ignored. It is up to consumers to stand up for what they believe in, and only by avoiding American Apparel and other morally objectionable companies can we send out the message that the treatment of women as objects is intolerable, as is university advertising by a company that promotes a pornified and demeaning image of women.