In light of American Apparel’s financial troubles, we take a moment to look back on something that boosted the brand’s notoriety from famous to infamous: its raunchy, exploitative, NSFW and T&A-laden advertisements. Here are 20 of the most controversial.
American Apparel has officially descended into the depths of a financial inferno. The onetime arbiter of made-in-America cool has just recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (again), having lost over $340 million in the last five years along with another $45 million this year. On top of sitting upon an Everest-sized mountain of debt, the company’s also been ensnared in countless lawsuits, controversies and not to mention a very public court battle with former CEO Dov Charney, who was ousted from the company last year on accounts of “alleged misconduct and violations of company policy.”
But while the company is certainly down, it isn’t necessarily out. According to a New York Times report detailing AA’s fiscal debacle, the “Made in America” retailer will preserve its Los Angeles manufacturing center and keep its 130 U.S. stores open.
So, in light of American Apparel’s troubles, we take a moment to look back on something that boosted the brand’s notoriety from famous to infamous: its raunchy, exploitative, NSFW and T&A-laden advertisements. So sit back in your cubicle, cover your screen and check out 20 of American Apparel’s most controversial ads.
“Meet Sophie.” (2004)
The intro text above Sophie’s photo says that she “is currently a student in Montreal. She met an American Apparel employee on the street there, and was photographed the following evening.” Guess it’s safe to say that Sophie and said employee had a good time.
“Après ski.” (2004)
Featuring a cameo from the company’s former CEO Dov Charney, we’re not entirely sure what clothes AA is advertising here.
“Safe to say she loves socks.” (2005)
The text below the photo reads: “Meet Lauren Phoenix. 150 lbs. of magic. Actress. Director. Look her up on Google.” If you do in fact look her up on Google, you’ll discover that Lauren loves a bit more than just socks (hint: she’s a porn actress).
“New freedom for the student body.” (2005)
One of AA’s creepier campaigns, the candid and vulnerable nature of this photo exemplifies the company’s regular sexualization of students and models who oftentimes appear underage.
This ad shows a woman in her underwear sitting atop a shirtless man laying in bed with the slogan “Playtime” printed below. Very creative. Very enigmatic.
“Micro Mesh” (2006)
Nothing really “micro” about the risqué activity going on this ad.
Sounds like a team-building exercise Dov Charney would be game for.
“Stirrup Socks” (2006)
Nude girl wearing socks sits near an open window. Nude girl (assuming she’s still wearing the socks) looking tired and drugged out lies face down on a bed. The controversy surrounding this image should hopefully be self-evident.
Allegedly, the model in this ad was photographed mid-climax. Must be some magical tights.
Crotch Licking (2008)
Aside from the overtly salacious nature of this ad, there were rumors floating in cyberspace that suggested the male subject in the photo was Dov Charney himself, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise considering his history of countless allegations of misconduct with former employees.
“The Slim Slack” (2008)
100% guarantee that your attention wasn’t focused on the slacks here (nor was it AA’s).
When she’s not crouching in ads for American Apparel, Faye Reagan makes a living working in hardcore porn.
…and more Porn Stars (2009)
With titles such as “Best Three Way Sex Scene,” “Best Group Scene” and “Best Female Performer” under her belt, AA thought who better to continue their “porn stars in campaigns” trend than AVN Adult Movie Award (aka porn’s Oscars) queen Sasha Grey.
“Neat Pleats…” (2011)
Yes, this ad was intended for pleats..well, for American Apparel standards that is.
“Now Open” (2012)
You get the picture.
“Summer basics.” (2013)
So basic, in fact, that they’re hardly even visible.
“Meet Trudy.” (2013)
Displaying what looks like an underage girl posing seductively in nothing but a sweater, this voyeuristic ad was in fact banned in the UK, with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) claiming that it made the model appear “vulnerable” due to her position.
“Bodysuits and Thigh-Highs” (2013)
Another one banned by the ASA for being “gratuitous” and sexually objectifying women (a recurring motif with American Apparel clearly).
“Made in Bangladesh.” (2014)
Subverting their traditional “Made in America” slogan, the Helvetica-printed text slapped over this topless Bangladeshi model’s chest was a stunt aimed at drawing attention to the company’s fair-labor practices.
Spread Eagle (2014)
Pretty sure they don’t know how a wheelbarrow race works.
For more from our ‘Most Controversial’ series, check out the following:
10 of the Most Controversial Fashion Photographers Ever (NSFW)
10 of the Most Controversial Film Directors (NSFW)
15 of the Most Controversial Movie Posters of All Time (NSFW)
8 of the Most Controversial Hip-Hop Album Covers of All Time (NSFW)
10 of the Most Controversial Fashion Ads of All Time (NSFW)