Paper 2 and haiku (blog 8)

Meet American Apparel. There’s a little a devil in those angel eyes.

Scandals everywhere,

American Apparel 

What is your image? 

For paper 2, I want to explore the clothing company American Apparel Inc. The casual clothing organization often described as hip, artsy a, cool, also wears another adjective: contradictory. American Apparel stands as a paradox, wearing two contrasting masks at once. One organization face shows the company as a friend to all employees, promoting the “sweatshop free” movement, only U.S.A.-Made, as well as legalizing gay marriage, and supporting its workers, whom are mostly Latino immigrants by paying significantly above minimum wage ($12-$13 per hour) and providing medical benefits. The other face is one of scandal, over-sexualized advertisement, which is sometimes referred to as “soft core pornography”, and an outlandish CEO, Dov Charney, who dabbles in T-shirts and sexual harassment lawsuits. Rob Walker describes the organization from a bird’s eye-view in an article entitled Sex vs. Ethics.

Walker states “the company had transitioned to an image soaked in youth and sex. This was apparent in its stores-where the decor often included things such as Penthouse covers-and in its print ads. Yes, some of these ads mentioned quality and the sweatshop-free angle, but usually in small type, under a photograph of a half-naked young woman.”

I am curious as to how these two polar opposite organizational constructs can co-exist within the same company (and work!) Charney responds to the ethical question: “It’s not that he cares less about treating his workers ethically… it’s that he doesn’t think trumpeting work conditions will help him compete. Sure, he hoped quality or social consciousness or a distaste for logos would each attract some consumers. But he also hoped that selling a sexed-up version of youth culture to young people would attract others, and hopefully in greater numbers. If ethics draws in some consumers, great. But for others who respond to different rationales, he’ll provide those, too.”

I plan on assessing the organization through utilitarian and feminist ethics lenses. Which face outweighs the other, and to what extent are woman being degraded to make American Apparel/Charney money?


7 thoughts on “Meet American Apparel. There’s a little a devil in those angel eyes.

  1. This reminds me of the recent allegations against Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO, who was criticized for his comments about overweight or “ugly” people wearing his brand. To me, it seems that these clothing companies are so obsessed with maintaining brand image that it often leads to behavior that is overly sexual–and definitely questionably ethical.

  2. I personally do not shop at American Apparel, so I found this to be really interesting. What caught my attention the most was the shady behavior of the CEO. Just like Dan, the first thing to pop into my mind was Abercrombie and all the controversial image issues they have been facing over the years regarding model size and weight.

  3. I thought this was really relevant to our age group. I have only bought from UA one time and didn’t know any of this. It is astonishing how little we know about what goes into our products because as a consumer nation we would be swamped with research if we tried to learn about all the places we chose to buy from.

  4. I was under the impression that it is a well known fact that American Apparel is manufactured in the US, hence the name. It would be interesting to investigate what drives people to shop there. Is it the ethical production? Is it because of the trendy name? Furthermore, does the target market even find the ads offensive? I get the feeling that young people are desensitized to the over sexualized ads or the brand would not be as successful as it is.

  5. As per usual, LOVED your post! I love that the CEO “dabbles in T-shirts and sexual harassment lawsuits” and appreciate your humor amidst this crazy topic. I have been aware of AA’s “made in America” push and its praise around labor issues, but I do agree that the company’s image is definitely struggling when sexual images are concerned. It’s clear they believe these images will attract a greater customer base, but sometimes I feel uncomfortable walking into those stores because I feel “too conservative”. Seems a bit backwards..

  6. If it is privately held, which I think it is, finding info on the financials or other inside information can be trickier.

    Where was your “Sex vs. Ethics” article published?

    Does it include sources?

    THere may be multimedia resources too… documentaries and so on.

    The feminist angle is complicated. At one level, there is a liberatory side to women being free in their sexual presentation. Of course, this is also tied not to the human spirit, but to profit, or in forms that objectify or exploit women, or, of course, promulgate ridiculous images of body type.

    TO put it another way, can a clothing company be sexy and NOT objectifying?

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