A few of the most notable controversies include:
In 2007, American Apparel posted two billboards, one in New York and one in Los Angeles, with an image of Woody Allen’s character from Annie Hall dressed as a Rabbi, posing next to Yiddish text. The billboards were up for only a week, but Allen sued the company for $10 million for using his image. Allen testified in December 2008 that the ads were “sleazy” and “infantile.” The case was settled out of court.
In 2008, American Apparel ran online ads that showed a fully topless model. The ads only showed up on two sex-themed blogs, but debuted not long after Charney’s sexual harassment lawsuit, which included allegations that he ran a “hostile” work environment in which he conducted meetings in the nude.
In the past, American Apparel has also used pornographic actors in some of its ads and a model came under scrutiny for looking under 16 in 2009. Though American Apparel held that the model was in fact 23, the ASA ruled that the pictures “could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child.”
When does scintillating become tasteless? The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has deciding to draw that line in the sand, upholding two complaints against ads by American Apparel on its company website and calling them “gratuitous” and guilty of sexually objectifying women, according to WWD.
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