It’s hard to argue with the fact that American Apparel has built an empire on little more than moderately good underwear, T-shirts, and other basics. But we all know it’s not the clothes the company is really famous for — it’s American Apparel’s ads full of controversy and nearly nude models that garners them so much attention. The Los Angeles-based company regularly depicts young women in sexually-charged positions, topless, pantsless, and borderline naked.
Certain ads are harmless, while others — like the one that depicts a model named Maks who hails from Bangladesh, a part of the world consistently embroiled in hot water because of poor working conditions for factory laborers — is shown completely topless. Across her chest are the words “Made in Bangladesh,” and underneath is her full story:
“She is a merchandiser who has been with American Apparel since 2010. Born in Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh, Maks vividly remembers attending mosque as a child alongside her conservative Muslim parents. At age four, her family made a life changing move to Marina Del Rey, California. Although she suddenly found herself a world away from Dhaka, she continued following her parent’s religious traditions and sustained her Islamic faith throughout her childhood.”
After reading the text accompanying the topless photo of Maks, we’re prompted to inquire: what does her being topless have to do with anything? Could not the point have been made that she’s abandoning her restrictive, conservative religious beliefs in a way that doesn’t also exploit her for her body?
We’ve come to expect nothing better from the brand, whose former CEO Dov Charney is a known sleaze, having been accused by his employees of unwanted sexual contact time and time again. And perhaps this ad isn’t really as outlandish as we first thought; a look back through the history of all American Apparel’s ads reveals that the most recent one barely scrapes the surface of the brand’s now-infamous porn aesthetic.
Click through the gallery to see the 50 most porn-y American Apparel ads ever. And consider yourself fairly warned: they are graphic, rather unsettling, and completely NSFW.
All Photos: American Apparel Ad Archive