Yeah yeah, the clothes cost just as much as American Eagle because they're paying the workers decent wages. I get that. Some of the clothes are cute, sure, but I still can't spend $25 on a scarf, or $9 on a long braided hunk of rope they claim is a belt, nor could I bear to tie that rope around the waist of a skin-tight cotton spandex turtleneck jersey dress ($36).
I guess my biggest qualm with American Apparel is that they couldn't just be different. They sell vertically integrated goods, they host a amateur photography section on their website, and the only people I knew working at their stores were starving art students who got free clothes.
But then came the ads.
I can understand that in a high-competition market like clothes, you've got to play hard. AA is appealing to intelligent, ethical, artistically-aware crowd, but also a broke crowd. I suppose I can understand that there's got to be something more to take the A&F girls out of the mall and bring their daddy's credit cards downtown.
But the photography makes me sick.
Every week I open up a Memphis Flyer, and thirty minutes later, whilst I scan the back page for upcoming shows, I cannot help but look to the bottom. Which twelve-year-old boy-remniscient model will be wearing a unitard today?
I can see plainly that there are only so many things you can do with fashion photography, but from the standpoint of an artist, I am tired of seeing photographers (not limited to fashion at all) take the purposely amateur approach like it's a new thing. It's like Pollock throwing paint around like it was this huge discovery that paint drips. And yes, I do judge AA on their creative guile, because they are trying to sell their image to people like me.
Look at Abercrombie's ads. They are ridiculous and melodramatic. They sell winter coats by taking harshly-lit black & white photos of a fur-lined down jacket on a buff, sweaty, shirtless man, who obviously has no need for a winter coat, because he lives in a steamy penthouse in LA with an anorexic, yet sultry model, but spends his days in the desert making half-love to her.
American Apparel's photos don't even have the cheesy backstory, the feigned drama, the allure whatsoever. If A&F is Playboy, AA is Hustler. It's like someone watched too many Wes Anderson movies, sprinkled a few homely (pardon me, alternatively attractive..) models in (who are still skinny & somewhat shapely) with their gallery of stereotypically gorgeous models, and took high-flash pictures of them wearing nothing but the item being sold.
Hideous gold windbreaker? No shirt!
(I can't help but think they had a lot of awful gold material leftover from something, and they are trying desperately to make it into that, really-ugly-but-hip-because-you've-got-the-attitude-to-wear-it-kind-of-thing-to-sell-it.)
Yeah, it looks real hot on Missus Titty, but imagine some sweet, pudgy, thirteen year old Judy wanders into AA one day, so enraptured by these hot models who seem more believable in her mind than A&F girls, SPENDS FIFTY-EIGHT DOLLARS + TAX ON THIS GOLD LAME WINDBREAKER, and wears it to school. What do you think would happen? Take the windbreaker off the tits and think of it in another context, no, ANY context whatsoever. This jacket is awful, and poor little 7th grader Judy would get laughed out of school.
Socks! .....but no PANTIES.
You need a BARE ASS to sell me these socks? They're cute, I'd buy them if they were $10 less, but... WHO?! is it you are trying to sell these women's socks to? Me? OR MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD BROTHER??!? Are you just hoping that I'm a horny lesbian?
I DON'T UNDERSTAND.
I must add that when I first discovered their illustrious website, I actually loved the clothes, and loved the presentation. However, take a look at the fashion photography then:
Such taste! Such poise! Such natural lighting!