According to an anonymous source within the company, American Apparel has started scaling back up towards a sexier image—some aspects of which are making employees uncomfortable. Last week, the company asked retail workers to wear shirts that say “Ask Me to Take It All Off” this coming Black Friday. “American Apparel is giving my consent to our customers to harass me, if I wear that shirt,” the store employee told Jezebel.
The shirts were introduced as optional but “highly encouraged” (screenshots of the directive in question were included, and confirm this), and according to the source, employees who chose not to wear it were directed to wear a black shirt with a button displaying the same message. “I find this slogan really disgusting and in poor taste,” the employee wrote to Jezebel in an email, which included both the emails from a senior marketing manager and photographs of the shirt in question.
“Now they are actively encouraging our patrons to sexually harass me and my colleagues, some of whom are as young as 15... there’s no question in my mind that anyone wearing the shirt will face inappropriate comments from customers.”
Over the phone, the source continued: “My colleagues and I were all happy to see Dov go, we were frankly pretty disgusted with his antics.” (I’ve reported in the past on others with the company who felt differently.) “The company seemed to be moving in a direction with less gross sexual innuendo, but recently I’ve noticed a lot more sexually explicit shots in some of our visual merchandising props.”
Although the images currently up on the American Apparel website seem relatively tame compared to past campaigns, it’s likely that there are changes afoot in just how much sex the company is willing to sell. For example, the public hair and nipples that were airbrushed out of the website’s lingerie section back in March—to much public outcry—appear to be back in action, although it’s unclear when exactly this change took place.
American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October, and the company’s manufacturing workforce continues to protest their changing working conditions.
Since taking over the company after Dov Charney’s December 2014 ouster, CEO Paula Schneider has been firm in relaying her desire to reel back some of the sleazier imagery (and behaviors) long associated with the brand. Although “we are still a sexy brand,” she told The Guardian earlier this month, “As a woman and a feminist, I want to celebrate women and ensure whatever we are doing doesn’t denigrate women.”
Update: A spokesperson for the company has informed us that American Apparel has decided to discontinue the shirts in question. The article has been updated to reflect this. They provided Jezebel with the following statement:
“This slogan on these tee shirts—which were distributed to both male and female employees as optional—was originally intended to be a play on words to engage customers during our Black Friday Sale, which features an additional 50 percent off items that are already marked down 50 percent. We understand that this offended an individual employee who spoke up about his / her concerns. American Apparel is a company that values free speech, and most importantly, creating an environment where employees feel valued, protected, and safe. As such, we have decided to discontinue this slogan and will seek other ways to stay creative and push the envelope, which is part of our brand DNA.”
Top image via Associated Press and courtesy of source; image via screengrab.
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