American Apparel: Not what you thought

by bradythegoat on April 26, 2017 - 5:18pm

Fashion in High School was all about “American Apparel.”  The vast majority of students would be covered from head to toe with the company’s clothing on a daily basis. The trend has died down, but there are still several supporters of the company. However, it was such an impactful trend that people started to ignore their advertisements. This should not be a surprise, due to the fact that when people are sincerely attached to a product line, they tend to ignore any possible negativity that halo’s over the company. The way American Apparel fabricates its product is ethical, but the way the sell it is unethical. “American Apparel has made its name in the fashion world as a fast fashion company that uses suspicious methods to move their product” (Ethics of Fashion Advertising). For the longest time, “American Apparel” has sexually objectified women via their clothing and tactics used in advertisements. We are talking about advertisements containing women who are barely dressed, who are positioned in a way to spontaneously trigger sexual cognition within their target market, and topped off with a short written sexual connotation such as “Now Open,” “Bubblelicious,” “Meet Sophie” etc. Although they fabricate their products in California as a means to create a moral selling tactic, their advertisements campaign over the years have ambushed the company’s ethical reputation.

            From a teleological perspective, “American Apparel’s” advertisement campaigns are extremely unethical as the outcome is overwhelmingly negative. The end result may capture a few people’s attention in a positive way, but this is done through an extremely unethical manner. However, the bad still greatly outweighs the good in this situation. Their advertisements create the outcome that their company is sexually objectifying women, which results as a great cause for concern towards the company’s unethical approach. According to the Oxford Journal, “women on average exhibited a marked negative reaction to explicit sexual content in advertising” (Dahl et al, 215). Therefore, we can notice that ‘American Apparel’ completely disregards the outcome that their advertisements have on women, which demonstrates sexist and unforgivable unethical decision making. Ultimately, this effects a severe loss in revenue towards the company’s capital.

“American Apparel’s” advertisement campaigns also create a negative outcome on the children and teenagers whom affiliate themselves with the company. The young population is unconsciously affected as seeing these ads on a regular basis leads to their malleable opinions and perspectives being easily altered. Not only can this effect children’s behaviour towards a different gender but it also engages in “exploiting young girls who want to live out their dreams of modeling” (Ethics of American Apparel). According to the teleological perspective, American Apparel’s advertisement campaigns are extremely unethical due to the negative outcomes.

There is a root to every problem in this world. In this case, the problem is related to the CEO of the company, Dov Charney. Hadley Malcom states that: “the 45-year-old founder of the company has been the target of multiple lawsuits, some of which may still be pending” (Malcolm, 3).  These are all cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. For example, it was “reported that Charney makes retail managers photograph female store employees so that he can ensure they fit his aesthetic tastes, which include full eyebrows and long, natural hair." (Los Angeles Federal Court). Here we can see that American Apparel’s unethical advertisement campaign is piloted by a sexist individual.

American Apparel has dug themselves a severely deep grave. Not only does the advertisement campaign act extremely unethical by sexually objectifying women, but there have also “been reports of the company using underage models in some of their earlier advertisements, though now that the company is under a more watchful eye, all of their models are reportedly of age” (Ethics of American Apparel).  Just the fact that the company has enticed others to keep them under a watchful eye demonstrates the extremity of unethical advertising. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough due to the gender objectification of women. Now, they dare to use models that are under age in order to attract a different target market, or a larger target market rather. The majority of the clothes they sell is targeted towards women. How can they possibly believe that portraying females as sex objects works as the best advertising technique? Their reputation is now regarded to as unethical, and unethical only. Their advertisements techniques are extremely immoral, as they force people to take a step back, and wonder if they are seeing the billboard or advertisement properly.  For example, David Griner, in his top ten list of the most sexist advertisements, states that in an American Apparel ad, “women were shown pantsless and crawling, while men were simply hanging out and looking relatively normal” (Adweek). This is just the beginning of the immorality of this specific ad. Their response to the Daily Mail: "We don't think there is anything in these photos out of sync with our standards, and we think they portray the garments and the models in an attractive way and are not even the slightest discriminatory" (Adweek). This ultimately goes to show that they are aware that their standards are immoral and unethical. They also seem to have the perspective that their standards will not change anytime soon, causing great hatred toward the company by a ton of people.

In conclusion, it is important to address the unethical and immoral advertisement campaigns that impact our society. American Apparel’s advertisements has to be one of the worst examples that can be provided when talking about what should be used in advertisement techniques. Their advertising campaigns are wrong in nature. This is because they interfere with the majority of people’s beliefs. Sexually objectifying women has absolutely no potential of being a positive technique. It actually functions as the complete opposite. “The company has had its ads banned the UK for sexualizing a “model who appeared to be a child” (The Guardian). Let this be an example for other people not to follow, as a company’s potential is put on the line through their advertisement campaigns. 



Dahl, Darren W., et al. “Sex in Advertising: Gender Differences and the Role of Relationship Commitment.” Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 36, no. 2, 2009, pp. 215–231.,

Hadley, Malcolm, et al. "Charney a Target of Multiple Suits." USA Today, n.d. EBSCOhost,,ip,url&db=aph&AN=J0E168405004414&site=ehost-live.



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