American Apperal or Absolute Asses?

16 Sep

As my late father, who was in the woman’s apparel industry for over 45 years once said, a clothing company is only successful as its designer and since most designers have no idea what the average woman in America wants from their clothing they design it to suit their egos.  His words rang true to me this evening when I heard about the recent model search held by American Apparel to tout their new line of plus size fashions.

American Apparel, the largest clothing manufacture still located in the United States, has been providing the world with soft core pornography under the guise of modeling for over twenty years but it seems as of late that they want to jump on the bandwagon with the likes of H&M, The
Limited and Forever 21 in expanding their vision to the plus size demographic.  However, in this fat girl’s opinion they fell a little short of the goal with the size 12-14 plus size “XL” line.

Enter Nancy Upton, a size 12 Dallas based blogger, who entered “The Next Big Thing” model search submitting photos of herself scarping down a whole chicken while gazing longingly at us from a pool, hiding her nether regions behind a cherry pie while displaying her ample bosom in a blue gingham bikini top, bathing in a tub of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  To Upton, the photos were a commentary of sorts on how the media portrays fat woman and how retailers market to us, however the public loved it.  So much so that they voted Nancy Upton the winner of the AA contest.  American Apparel failed to see the humor in the photos and despite winning the vote have declined to allow Upton to appear in the campaign stating that they…., “decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.”

In a letter to Upton, the Creative Director of AA, Iris Alonzo, scolded her, saying “It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language”.  Positive intentions?  Really!
I see nothing positive in a clothing line that calls sizes 12 and 14 “
natural – and completely normal –
full-figured women”. 
As a size 26/28 woman I take offense to a company who claims to be making a conscious effort to change to be more accommodating of the “full figured woman” but continually falls short of making the grade.

Not so surprisingly are some of the remarks that Upton is getting from the general populace about her “stunt” to bring attention to a problem that most still would like to keep swept under the rug.  Responding to a blog on the Huffington Post, AveryT replied by saying,

“First, I’ll put my bias on the table. I’m thin. I wear 29″ jeans. I
do not find this women even remotely attractive­. Indeed, I find her the
opposite of attractive­.
From a business perspectiv­e, AA made the wise choice. Its brand image is
thin (although, AA models are a lot bigger than runway models). Also, AA images
(maybe not AA copy) has no sense of humor at all. It isn’t ironic at all. It is
very serious about being sexy in a trashy way. It contains no parody at all.
The Gap went with the Gap body campaign. However, The Gap has almost gone
bankrupt.
Having plus sized models may seem like a way to attract a wider demographi­c.
However, people buy a brand, because they like its image. My hunch is that plus
sized women who buy AA do so in the hope of looking more like the thinn(er)
models in the photos. The clothing makes the woman. Changing (or widening) the
image would hurt the brand, I think.”

I’ve heard this notion before that clothes make the man (or woman in this case) but I think, instead, that attitude makes the woman, after all, when you feel booty-ful you carry yourself differently, you exude a confidence that can make all the difference.  As far as hurting the brand
by widening the selection, I think what would really hurt the brand is when the waifish twigs that shop there realize they aren’t really a size 4 since most designers have tweaked the numbers and that 4 is really more like an 8 these days.

Kudos Nancy Upton, I applaud your efforts to bring attention to a topic that most find incredibly uncomfortable and some find unpleasurable.  What it boils down to is a right, our God-given right to equality.  We are humans, people, with needs and desires and wants just like everyone else and though it might seem trivial to some, we desire to be fashionable along with everyone else, we want to be able to find clothes similar to our skinny sisters, not because we want to be skinny but because we could rock them just as good as the Rosie Huntington Whitley’s of the world (and in some cases dare I say better).  Nothing worth fighting for was ever easy to talk about but when a picture is worth a thousand words
yours spoke volumes.

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One Response to “American Apperal or Absolute Asses?”

  1. dapperdolly September 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    I don’t think a thinner person is more attractive than a bigger person just because they’re thin, just like I don’t think the term ‘curvy’ represents plus size and no one else or I don’t think taller people are more attractive than short people because they have longer legs.

    I’ve thought for a while that fashion – at least couture and runway fashion, i.e. the top tiers of fashion upon which all the manufacturing and distributing tiers base their lines off in a modified way – was the elite club for those who were made fun of at school for being lanky and thin (something I don’t think kids should do to others for whatever reason). So they put a lot of effort into the couture industry and glamorize themselves as the icons of style and beauty. It works, you can glamorize anything and it’ll suddenly be desirable even if people wouldn’t have looked twice before.

    I think it was stupid of her to think and say that it would hurt the brand by incorporating plus size. Regardless of her personal preferences and prejudices, plus size women (and men) make up over half of the population and that’s regardless of height too. If any brand image is concerned over focusing on the desired image rather than the realistic one – they should at least focus on being healthy and the average sizes with options for easy alteration. But if they want to make more money – they have to realise people come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why I don’t quite understand the ‘big and tall’ for men either, since they don’t cater for big and tall men separately, they put them together as big men are tall or tall men are big – totally excluding a lucrative market in for big men of all heights and tall men of all sizes.

    As for the image that won the competition – well if it was meant as a joke then that’s one thing, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the brand image – as shown by AA, the irony or even sarcasm was lost on them so it could be lost on customers/potential customers too and they could lose customers that way.

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