Topless American Apparel Ad goes after Sweatshop Labor. {Nudity}

Via elephant journal
on Mar 24, 2014
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Adult only.

‘MADE IN BANGLADESH’ 

American Apparel, as per usual, 1) strikes at the heart of bullshit corporate America with its ethics (in this case an anti-Sweatshop ad) while 2) promoting inspiring ideals such as religious freedom, pro-feminist ideals from a personal perspective…and then 3) going in for shameless, stylish self-exploitation, 4) pissing off half of its own demographic…and in so doing 5) garnering a million dollars of free publicity. 9826_MAKS_AD_040314_LG   Read the text, above. Or, here:

“[Maks] is a merchandiser who has been with American Apparel since 2010. Born in Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh, Maks vividly remembers attending mosque as a child alongside her conservative Muslim parents. At age four, her family made a life changing move to Marina Del Rey, California. Although she suddenly found herself a world away from Dhaka, she continued following her parent’s religious traditions and sustained her Islamic faith throughout her childhood. Upon entering high school, Maks began to feel the need to forge her own identity and ultimately distanced herself from Islamic traditions. A woman continuously in search of new creative outlets, Maks unreservedly embraced this photo shoot. She has found some elements of Southern California culture to be immediately appealing, but is striving to explore what lies beyond the city’s superficial pleasures. She doesn’t feel the need to identify herself as an American or a Bengali and is not content to fit her life into anyone else’s conventional narrative. That’s what makes her essential to the mosaic that is Los Angeles, and unequivocally, a distinct figure in the ever expanding American Apparel family. Maks was photographed in the High Waist Jean, a garment manufactured by 23 skilled American workers in Downtown Los Angeles, all of whom are paid a fair wage and have access to basic benefits such as healthcare.”

This is a complicated ad from a…complicated…company that, in typical fashion, both raises vital ethical questions that other companies are too cowardly to ask, and raises religious tolerance and pro-feminist issues…and then pisses off half of its own target demographic, both helping to get AA a ton of free publicity. Win, lose, it’s a win! From the Daily Beast: 

Sure, the statement may be a playful nod at the model’s heritage, but it also targets one of the fast-fashion industry’s biggest issues: sweatshops and their unsafe working conditions. In April 2013, Bangladesh-based garment factories made international headlines when the Rana Plaza Building, which produced clothing for the likes of JC Penney and Mango, collapsed, causing over 1,000 deaths. Following the tragedy, American Apparel CEO Dov Charneyspoke out against overseas, sweatshop production. “In Bangladesh, the problem with these factories is that they’re only given contracts on a seasonal or order-by-order basis,” Charney told the L.A. Times. “There’s so much pressure to perform, some of the working conditions are outrageous, almost unbelievable. It has completely stripped the human element from the brands… It’s such a blind, desensitized way of making clothing.” In 2002 American Apparel dubbed itself “sweatshop-free”…

Bonus: “The Real Made in Bangladesh.”

“…a response to the the American Apparel advertisement that has stirred controversy in the Bangladeshi community. The cover features Sadaf Siddiqi, representing a positive message about what “Made in Bangladesh” can mean. Sadaf, a Bangladeshi raised in the United Kingdom, is the chairperson of SAFE, an organisation that provides emergency disaster relief, which was actively enaged in rescue efforts after Rana Plaza collapsed. She promotes Bangladeshi culture through her involvement in music, dance, and literature. She also works in the garment industry…”

 

For more:

Why Does American-Made Clothing Cost More?

We’ve covered why I love AA in the past, and we’ve covered its founder’s problems, too.   Relephant Reads:

The Cold Hard Truth About the Fashion Industry.

Performance Art Highlights Poor Garment Working Conditions in Cambodia {Video}

 

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Comments

10 Responses to “Topless American Apparel Ad goes after Sweatshop Labor. {Nudity}”

  1. Joyce says:

    So, it's not ok to use sweatshops to make your clothes. I get it. But it IS ok to advertise your clothes using naked women? I really don't understand how ads with naked women are perceived as being sexually progressive and creative. Can you imagine if historically, men would have been portrayed in this way? No one would have ever taken them seriously. These ads do little to help women step into and own their power, in my opinion. I am a sexual, successful, empowered and respected woman and I have never used my naked (or clothed) tits to achieve anything. I wish models would think twice before posing for these photo shoots.

  2. Sarah W. says:

    You need to think about the environment she was raised in, Joyce, and realize this probably was something freeing and progressive for her. She was forced to be covered up and she embraces the fact that she can be who she wants to be and is proud of that. Nudity is something so shamed in America that it's disgusting! The point is she got the message out!

  3. elephantjournal says:

    That's what I said above, so I'll assume you're commenting to and about AA, not our coverage. 🙂

  4. Laura says:

    I hear what you’re saying Joyce but I see this as a positive step. She looks to be fit and of healthy body weight which deviates from the typical models that we are shown (and they are also half-naked). So even though she is topless I still think this is good for girls to see. If it had been shown normal body types when I was younger it would have definitely saved me heartbreak and negative self talk.

    Also, though I imagine you to be quite enlightened and willing to read the fine print in ads most people need a “shocking” image or message to pay attention. So while I see that you disagree with that method, I am interested to know what an ideal ad you would consider would be effective to instantly get people’s attention about sweatshop labour.

  5. danielschar says:

    why are boobs controversial anyway? I wish our culture didn't have childish views about the human body. Just saying.

  6. Chelsea says:

    This is without a doubt a progressive ad for women, there are countless jean ads which display men in the exact same way, unbuttoned jeans, topless, what separates this ad from ads which sexual and demean women is her stance. She is clearly not trying to seduce the viewer into looking at the ad or appearing passive and unassuming but instead is standing firm and proud. Confidence, especially in her nude body, is a positive message which should be encouraged among women. There is nothing unnatural, shocking or outrageous about her breast being shown, she is a human. Humans have bodies.

  7. Panty daze says:

    Well….America's obsession with bare breast is another comment. I say this, we all have nipples! Run the ad, it's a classic jeans pose. On a very peronal note the black lettering is distracting.

  8. Joyce says:

    ummm…how about dramatic images of sweat shops?

  9. Joyce says:

    Childish views about the human body? This issue, for me, at least, is about women hopefully one day being taking seriously in the fullest possible way. The 1950's image of women (i.e. the barefoot, pregnant, stay-in-the-kitchen, cover-your-body, image) is just as extreme and ludicrous as this image.

    I'm not sure if you are aware, but our society is in the midst of a pendulum shift when it comes to women. Meaning, we are still in the process of undoing the 'suppressed woman' and some women believe it is liberating or whatever to show their naked bodies. But unfortunately we are bombarded with these images to the point that our little girls and younger women are believing that this is what it is to be a woman. But being a woman is so much more than what this image (and the gazillion images like it out there) is portraying.

    Images like this one are just as extreme as the 1950's image of women and are just as damaging as long as they are as prevalent as they are today. We have to find the healthy, happy medium and to me, a healthy, happy medium is being a successful, respected woman who has removed whatever barriers she has to her sexuality but doesn't give her sexuality any more importance or meaning than it has. But while sex is used to sell cars, jeans, music, and so called awareness of sweat shops (ya right) and everything in between, women's sexuality is becoming more and more skewed and creating more and more confusion amongst our young girls and women.

    I would like to see women use their brains, skills and talent to be taken seriously. I would like women to learn how to get the most joy out of life that is possible. I would like women to be respected. I would like women to grow as fully and deeply in their sexuality as they possibly, removing any and all barriers that prevent them from experiencing the absolute best sex possible. But to me, using sexuality for anything other than sex seems like a significant misdirection and misuse of a very special aspect of our femininity.

    This woman using her tits to bring awareness to sweat shops makes about as much sense as an environmentalist flashing his cock and balls to bring awareness to global warming. It's ridiculous.

    Why are boobs controversial? Imagine if men, historically, showed their cock and balls as much as women show their tits and ass. Do you really think they'd have been taken as seriously as they are today? Not a hope in hell. That, my friend, is why tits and ass being pasted absolutely everywhere is controversial…and damaging.

    I believe, as women, we will find our happy medium, but we most definitely have not found it to date. We are still at the opposite end of the 1950's spectrum.

  10. Joyce says:

    And what is this American Apparel ad promoting? The need for clean drinking water in third world countries? Give me a break.

    http://store.americanapparel.net/mini_cat33213