The Stockings & Hosiery section of the website www.americanapparel.co.uk showed images of
the products for sale and included images of models wearing the tights or stockings.
a. The first showed a black and white photograph of a woman and her mirror image. She was lying on her back with her legs raised in the air, wearing shoes and patterned tights but nothing else. One of her breasts was visible.
b. The second showed several small photographs of women wearing tights but nothing else. One woman had her back to the camera and was bending over, touching her toes and looking back at the camera.
c. The third showed three identical photographs of a woman sitting on a window sill sideways to the camera wearing stockings and a long, flowered shirt.
d. The fourth showed three different photographs of a woman in pink tights and a blue top standing sideways to the camera.
e. The fifth showed five women wearing bras and different coloured tights lying on their stomachs but looking back towards the camera.
f. The sixth showed three pairs of women's legs raised in the air wearing different coloured stockings.
g. The seventh showed a woman lying on her stomach, sideways to the camera but turning her face towards it, wearing black, cut-out tights with the bottom exposed.
h. The eighth showed a woman on her hands and one knee, with her other leg raised in the air, sideways to the camera but turning her face towards it, wearing tights, shoes and a top.
i. The ninth showed a black and white photograph of a woman wearing sheer black tights and a top. She was sitting with her bottom facing the camera.
j. The tenth showed a woman on her hands and one knee, with her other leg raised in the air, sideways to the camera but turning her face towards it, wearing pink, footless, high denier tights and a bra.
k. The eleventh showed five pairs of women's legs wearing different coloured, high denier tights.
l. The twelfth showed the lower halves of four women wearing patterned or coloured tights. Three were sideways to the camera and one faced the camera.
m. The thirteenth showed a black and white photograph of two women wearing black, patterned tights but nothing else. One stood with her back to the camera and one stood sideways to the camera, but both had turned their heads to face the camera. One woman
covered her breast with her hand.
n. The fourteenth showed a photograph of a woman lying on her stomach on a bed with her face turned towards the camera. She was wearing white stockings, knickers and a bra and was cuddling a pillow.
o. The fifteenth showed the lower halves of four women wearing coloured, high denier tights. Three were sideways to the camera and were bending over.
p. The sixteenth showed a black and white photograph of a woman wearing high denier tights but nothing else, bending forwards with her back to the camera.
q. The seventeenth showed a photograph of a woman wearing patterned tights and a flesh-coloured top. She was sitting on the floor, facing the camera and doing the splits.
r. The eighteenth showed a photograph of a woman wearing white tights but nothing else, curled up on a sofa, facing the camera. One of her breasts was visible.
s. The nineteenth showed a photograph of a woman lying on her side with her back to the camera, wearing coloured, high denier tights.
t. The twentieth showed a photograph taken from above of a woman lying on her side, wearing coloured, high denier tights.
u. The twenty-first showed a black and white photograph of the lower halves of nine women standing close together wearing tights. Two stood facing the camera; the others stood sideways to the camera.
v. The twenty-second showed a black and white photograph of two women with their backs to the camera wearing black, cut-out tights with the bottoms exposed. Both women had turned their heads to face the camera.
w. The twenty-third showed three photographs of a woman lying on her back on a sofa with her legs raised in the air. She was wearing coloured, high denier tights and a top.
A complainant, who had wanted to look at the website with her 12-year-old daughter, objected that the images were unnecessarily sexual and inappropriate for a website that could be seen by children.
American Apparel (UK) (American Apparel) believed it was standard practice to market hosiery, intimates or lingerie in the way done on their website. They supplied links to other retailers' websites which they considered portrayed similar products in
similar ways. They said children could access any website; that their website sold a variety of products in addition to hosiery and lingerie and that hosiery and lingerie were labelled as such.
ASA Assessment: Upheld in relation to ads (p), (r) and (v).
The ASA considered that ads (c), (d), (e), (f), (h), (j), (k), (l), (o), (s), (t), (u) and (w) showed women in poses that were natural or artistic but which did not appear to be overtly sexual or otherwise inappropriate in hosiery ads on a website that
could be seen by children. Because of that, we concluded that those ads were not in breach of the CAP Code.
Although no nudity was visible, we considered the pose of the woman in ad (p) was sexually suggestive and gratuitous in an ad for hosiery. Because of that, we concluded that the image was inappropriate in a hosiery ad on a website that could be seen by
We saw that one of the woman's breasts in ad (r) was visible and considered her pose was submissive and sexually suggestive. Although we considered it was reasonable for ads for hosiery to feature women in limited amounts of clothing, we considered that
the image, together with her pose and the appearance of a breast in an ad for hosiery, was gratuitous. Because of that, we concluded that the image was inappropriate in a hosiery ad on a website that could be seen by children.
Although no nudity was visible, we considered the poses of the women in ad (v) were flirtatious and sexually suggestive; that the poses emphasised their bottoms and that they were gratuitous in an ad for hosiery. Because of that, we concluded that the
image was inappropriate in a hosiery ad on a website that could be seen by children.
Ads (p), (r) and (v) breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).
We investigated ads (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), (m), (n), (o), (q), (s), (t), (u) and (w) under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence) but did not find them in breach. Action
A press ad for American Apparel appeared on the back cover of Vice Magazine and pictured a girl sitting on an
office chair wearing a jumper, knickers and knee-length socks. She was posed with her legs up on the chair and her knickers were visible.
Two complainants, who believed the ad appeared to sexualise a child, objected that the ad was offensive and irresponsible.
American Apparel did not believe the ad was offensive or irresponsible. They said the model featured was over 18 years of age and was shown wearing products that were meant for adult consumers. They said they placed the ad in Vice magazine, which was a
publication written for adults. They said the model wore clothes which were available for sale in their stores and online, in this case underwear and a sweater.
Vice Magazine did not believe the ad was offensive or irresponsible. They said the ad featured a woman wearing socks, underwear and a top and there was nothing to suggest anything overtly sexual or inappropriate was being portrayed. They also pointed out
it contained no nudity. They believed that in the wider context of fashion and underwear advertising the image was tame and tasteful. They did not believe the average person would find the image offensive. They did not believe the model appeared to be
underage. American Apparel had since confirmed to them that the model was over 18 years of age.
ASA Assessment: Complaint Upheld
The ASA considered that the model pictured appeared to be young and potentially under the age of 16. Whilst we acknowledged the image did not contain any explicit nudity, we considered that the amateur style of the photo, the posing of the model with her
legs up on an office style chair with her knickers showing and the unsmiling expression on the model's face meant the photo would be interpreted as having sexual undertones and a voyeuristic quality. We concluded the ad inappropriately sexualised a model
who appeared to be a child and was therefore irresponsible.
We had not seen demographic data for Vice Magazine but understood it was intended for an adult audience. However, we concluded that because it appeared to sexualise a child the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence in a magazine that was
untargeted and freely available.
The ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).
The New York Daily News kindly reports that the model featuring in the ASA censured American Apparel advert was in fact
23 years old when the photo was taken.
It is interesting to note that although the ASA surely were aware of this fact, it would have been one of the first things that would have been asked, yet they decided not to include this pertinent figure in the censorship justification. No doubt it
would have made claim that she looked under 16 appear somewhat foolish.
An American Apparel representative said in a statement:
It's unfortunate that the ASA has made this ruling as our models are of age and were featured in VICE magazine, a publication clearly intended for mature, fashion forward audiences.
We'll abide by this ruling as we have in the past with similar ASA decisions, but American Apparel will not be altering our classic advertising aesthetic which is internationally recognized for its artistic and social values.
Images on the advertising page of the American Apparel website www.americanapparel.net included:
a. Under the heading Bodysuits and Thigh-Highs , six images of a female in a black lycra bodysuit and blue thigh high socks. The model was on a bed and her face was not shown. One of the shots showed her from the chest down and the other five were
from the area around the waist or lower. In two of the shots the model was depicted from the front and had her legs open and another showed her from behind in a kneeling position. The other three images showed her from the side, either in a kneeling or
b. Along with the text Meet Trudy. Trudy is a St. Louis native who has been travelling for the company since 2009 as a store consultant. Her hobbies include vintage buying as well as singing and dancing to 90's R&B. She is photographed here
wearing the Unisex Oversized Fisherman Turtleneck Sweater . The model was shown from the side wearing only a jumper. Her bottom half appeared naked and she was reclining on a bed with her legs in the air.
A complainant, who believed the models appeared vulnerable, challenged whether:
ad (a) was offensive, because she believed it was overtly sexual and objectified women; and
ad (b) was offensive, because she believed it was overtly sexual. CAP Code (Edition 12)
ASA Assessment: 1. & 2. Complaint upheld
The ASA noted ad (a) did not show the model's face and that the scenes, which showed her on a bed, emphasised her groin and buttocks as well as focusing on her breasts, albeit they were covered. Although we considered it was reasonable for ads for
hosiery to feature women in limited clothing, we considered the images and the model's poses were gratuitous. We considered the images were overtly sexual and that they demeaned women by emphasising the model's groin, buttocks and breasts and by not
including her face.
We noted the woman in ad (b) was fully clothed on her top half but that she was also on a bed and her bottom half appeared naked. Her buttocks were visible, with her legs raised. We considered the image to be gratuitous, particularly in an ad for
knitwear. We also considered the model's facial expression appeared blank, if not unsure, and were concerned that she appeared vulnerable. We considered the image was overtly sexual.
We considered there was a voyeuristic quality to the images, which served to heighten the impression that the women were vulnerable and in sexually provocative poses. For the reasons given, we considered the ads were likely to cause serious offence to
visitors to American Apparel's website. We concluded that they breached the Code.
The ads breached CAP Code rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).
An anonymous source from AA's corporate team told racked.com
they think the ASA is looking for publicity by singling them out:
We'd like to shoot down the idea that American Apparel is trying to make ads that get banned for publicity. It's the other way around. The ASA grandstands on the AA name to get publicity and that's why they repeatedly come after the company. I think the
fact that the 'ads' in this case weren't even ads but images on our website makes that pretty clear. How can this agency have any say over what a company displays on its site? We've been doing these ads for 10 years. Who are they to say what is and isn't
From what we hear, the ASA is stepping stone for politicians and such in the UK. So it's a nice way to get press, going after things no one would really want to defend. If you think about it, it's a pretty alarming precedent. A non-government agency
decides not only what is or isn't ok, but they decide what is or isn't an ad. In this case, americanapparel.net is an ad, and their means of enforcing the rules are quarterly press releases. The media LOVES this stuff and the ASA knows it. We don't even
run into this kind of trouble in China with our ads. It's nuts.
Swedish protestors smashed windows of the fashion store, American Apparel.
The protests were sparked by a blog post pointing out that American Apparel model male clothes using very staid poses, but use sexy pictures for women's wear.
The Local, a Swedish news site in English, spoke to blogger Emelie Eriksson about a post she wrote comparing the marketing for American Apparel's unisex items. When a male model is used, the garment is styled innocently, she argues, while the
female models in the very same piece are made to look like they've just had sex. She said:
I think it's totally sickening how American Apparel markets its clothes. It shows they have a very degrading view toward women and I'm surprised they've been able to do this without facing any strong criticism.
American Apparel said:
As a company, American Apparel is very sensitive to gender and sexual issues, just as we have been to issues like immigration and gay marriage. In this case, the actual product model photo for this unisex item is fully clothed for women, just as it is
for men. Unfortunately, some bloggers have confused an artistic photoshoot which accompany the pages with a product shot and a controversy erupted as a result.
The man who founded a Swedish online fashion retailer has posed part-naked to help market the firm's clothes in protest at US retailer American Apparel using sexy images of partly-naked women to sell its wares.
Michaela Forni, a Swedish fashion blogger who manages the product range for online retailer byPM.se, told The Local:
We thought it was sick that American Apparel time and again gets away with such sexist advertising,
We wanted to do the exact same thing they did, but with the opposite gender. On our site, it's the man who has his bare ass in the air and is seen in a sexually seductive pose.
People say, 'Ew, you can't have those images.' But when women are portrayed similarly, no one reacts.
The man featured in the byPM.se images is the company's founder and part owner, Petter Lindqvist.
In light of the recent removal of American Apparel CEO Dov Charney for sexual harassment and other misconduct, we urge the company to re-examine its advertising techniques and brand identity.
American Apparel's use of pornographic images of young girls in ads has done more to promote a culture of sexual exploitation than sell products, said Morality in Media's Executive Director Dawn Hawkins, noting that the company is losing millions
of dollars annually.
Some of the company's ads depict young girls topless, with pubic hair showing, or with legs spread. Clearly, the company has operated with a 'girls are sex objects' attitude not only in their brand identity, but also in the office where, according to
news reports, the CEO is alleged to have sexually harassed female employees, Hawkins said.
The Washington Post wondered if this event signals, The fashion industry has finally hit porn chic fatigue. We hope this is the case, as these sleazy advertising campaigns profoundly affect the way society views and treats females in our society,
Morality in Media asks the public to contact American Apparel to urge that the company turn away from sexual exploitation. A special web page has been set up for the campaign here .
Hawkins said a letter requesting a meeting with American Apparel was sent today by MIM on behalf of the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation to discuss constructive ways the company can avoid sexually exploitive advertisements. The Coalition is a broad
based group of concerned leaders and more than 140 organizations active in national, state, and local efforts to stop the same sexual exploitation in which American Apparel currently engages.
A picture used as part of American Apparel's latest clothing range has attracted a few trivial whinges accusing the retailer of fuelling Lolita fantasies and rampant sexism for showing a model bending over in one of its mini-skirts.
The image in question was posted on their Instagram account and a similar one was posted on their website. The first featured a woman in a plaid green skirt leaning over a car window, with her underwear in view.
It was branded as horrifying and dangerous misogyny by a fewTwitter users and has since been removed from both its social media account.
Emilie, a blogger at anygirlfriday.com criticised the advert for reducing women down to little more than body parts to be claimed, and accused it of reinforcing idea that our primary purpose is to be appealing to men . She said:
The way in which American Apparel objectify and sexualise female bodies is damaging and rooted in patriarchal notions about a woman's worth.
Two ads, on the American Apparel's website and Instagram page, for a skirt which was featured in their School Days or Back To School range:
a. The website ad on www.americanapparel.co.uk featured an image of a girl wearing the skirt, a top and white underwear, bending over to touch the ground, photographed from behind from a low angle. Her crotch and buttocks were visible.
b. The ad posted on the advertisers' UK Instagram page featured an image of a girl wearing the skirt and a top leaning into a car, photographed from behind from a low angle. Her buttocks were visible.
Two complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive and irresponsible, because they were overtly sexual and inappropriate for a skirt advertised as school-wear.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
The ASA considered that the way in which the model was posed in both images, with her head and upper body obstructed in ad (a) by her legs, and cut off from the frame in ad (b), meant that the focus was on her buttocks and groin rather than on the skirt
being modelled. We considered the images were gratuitous and objectified women, and were therefore sexist and likely to cause serious and widespread offence. Furthermore, we considered the images imitated voyeuristic up-skirt shots which had been
taken without the subject's consent or knowledge which, in the context of an ad for a skirt marketed to young women, we considered had the potential to normalise a predatory sexual behaviour. We considered the ads had therefore not been prepared with a
sense of responsibility to consumers or to society.
Notwithstanding the above, we noted that, on American Apparel's website, the skirt was featured in its SCHOOL DAYS or BTS (which we understood to stand for Back To School') 'Lookbook , and that the image on Instagram had been
similarly referenced. We also noted it was not possible, from the images, to determine the age of the model because her face was not visible. We considered that, from the context in which the ads appeared, it was likely that those who viewed them would
understand that the model was, or was intended to appear to be, a schoolgirl. We considered the ads had the effect of inappropriately sexualising school-age girls and were therefore offensive and irresponsible for that reason too.
We noted American Apparel's view that, because consumers would be aware of their branding, they would expect to see such images when viewing their Instagram page or visiting their website. We considered, however, that the ads were irresponsible and
likely to cause serious and widespread offence irrespective of whether consumers had opted in to American Apparel's marketing communications, and particularly in the context of a clothing brand which had appeal to young people, including teenagers
under 16 years of age. We noted American Apparel had removed the images before we had contacted them, but were nonetheless concerned that the images had appeared in their advertising at all. We concluded the ads were in breach of the Code.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told American Apparel (UK) Ltd to ensure their future advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society, and that it contained nothing that was likely to cause
serious or widespread offence.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is no stranger to childish behaviour. But with its latest decision to ban images from raunchy retailer American Apparel's Back to School campaign for inappropriately sexualising schoolgirls , the
over-zealous watchdog really has thrown its toys out of the pram.
A website (store.americanapparel.co.uk) featured a product page for the Lips Print Cotton Spandex
Sleeveless Thong Bodysuit . A female model was featured in four images wearing the advertised product. One of the images showed her from the back with her buttocks visible.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and offensive, because it portrayed a sexualised image of a model who the complainant considered looked under 16 years of age.
American Apparel (UK) Ltd believed the image did not represent an underage model and said the model shown was 20 years old. They said the ad depicted the advertised product from various angles and included an image of the thong component of the bodysuit.
They believed the image was consistent with standards contained in similar ads.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA acknowledged the ad depicted the advertised product from various angles. We considered the model had a youthful appearance and that some consumers were likely to regard her as being younger than 16 years of age. The model was shown looking back
at the camera over her shoulder with her buttocks visible. We considered that readers were likely to interpret the model's expression and pose as being sexual in nature. In conjunction with the youthful appearance of the model, we considered the ad could
be seen to sexualise a child. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and was likely to cause serious offence.
The ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told American Apparel (UK) Ltd to ensure future ads did not include images that inappropriately sexualised young women or were likely to cause serious offence.
It's so easy to trash the Advertising Standards Authority -- who, as I must constantly point out, have no more legal authority than a bloke waving a placard in the middle of the street, and possibly far less common sense -- that I only do it sparingly.
But once again, they have made a decision that beggars belief, going far beyond a mere judgement on issues of taste and decency and entering into a world of thought crime that ironically makes them sound like a group of repressed, twisted perverts.