Wednesday 20 February 2013

Sex Sells, And We're Buying!

Type "American Apparel controversy" into Google, and be prepared for a long and entertaining read. Pier32's latest clothing partner is extremely adept at letting the news media do some heavy lifting when it comes to keeping the brand in the public eye.
Their adverts, which frequently feature young girls wearing very little clothing, have provoked ire from some commentators who see the images as exploitative, if not downright sexist. AA were the first US clothing retailer to publish a print ad featuring a fully topless model, and their roster has included adult film stars such as Sasha Grey. Urban myths that the company uses under-age girls in their campaigns continue to circulate even today, and their big banner ads are still regularly paint-bombed in New York. None of this is unusual, of course. Just look at Calvin Klein's campaigns. But there does seem to be something about the AA approach that keeps them in the news.
The company ran into trouble a few years ago with Woody Allen. Their unauthorised use of a still from the director's iconic Annie Hall led to a lawsuit and an out-of-court settlement running into the millions. A painful hit--but priceless exposure in the editorial pages of every newspaper.
Charismatic and eccentric, the founder of American Dov Charney has come under flack on more than one occasion for his unusual behaviour. Famously relaxed in his approach, there are stories that he's taken business meetings in the nude, and accusations that he screens employees for attractiveness have been fodder for the opinion pages for years. The company's support for immigration reform has attracted some sideways looks as well, as the sweatshop-free factory they run in California is largely staffed by Hispanics. Do American Apparel employ illegal immigrants? Not proven.
In the UK we see little of this. The company keep a lower profile, and their stores look like a slightly cooler Top Shop. Over here, it's the quality of the clothes and the ethics that matter most. That, of course, is the reason why Pier32 chose to partner with them. Their basics, hoodies and accessories are super-stylish, ethically sound and designed to last. We, at least, were not swayed by the adverts.

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