Why critic of American Apparel may end up being its big new star
American Apparel has a history even more chequered than its famous Aztec-print leggings – and its controversial reputation shows no sign of diminishing after its latest publicity stunt backfired when one of its customer took the US-based clothing chain rather too literally.
Nancy Upton, of Dallas, Texas, decided to enter the global casualwear label's competition to find a face for its recently launched plus-size range. In doing so, she chose to parody its notoriously strict and objectifying imagery, which more usually features pallid young women with prominent collarbones caught in headlights against a white background.
Upton's shots were somewhat more vivacious: in one, she holds a cherry pie over her crotch; in another she bathes suggestively in ranch dressing (the full-fat variety).
Another image places her on a bed of lettuce with an apple in her mouth, hog roast-style. Elsewhere she poses in a transparent blouse in a swimming pool, while trying vainly to cram an entire roast chicken into her mouth.
The tagline underneath her entry into the competition simply states "'I just can't stop eating."
The pictures she submitted were in second place in the contest, for which votes were cast by customers at american apparel.co.uk a day before its close yesterday.
"It's a dig at American Apparel's current tone and past policy," Upton said this week. "I'm a size 12 [UK 16] and wanted to show American Apparel my fresh face (and full figure)," she wrote on her blog.
The impetus behind Upton's saucy protest was the wording of the store's competition. Its invitation to would-be models is laced with size-related puns and allusions to body shape.
"We're looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out," the site says, referring to its new XL range.
"If you think you've got what it takes to be the new XLent model, send us a picture of you and your junk to back it up."
American Apparel's advertising campaigns and in-store graphics have come under fire previously for being too revealing and overtly sexualised.
Models are often chosen, cast, contorted and shot by the company's controversial founder, Dov Charney, whose penchant for the ectomorphic 'hipster' physique is obvious in his imagery and in the sizing range of the clothes in his stores.
A 'large' tends to fit a relatively slim size 12, while the new range of 'XL' pieces will fit a 14.
The rules of the plus-size model search clearly state that contestants must submit two pictures, a face shot and a body shot, which visitors to the company's website will rate.
The company had received almost 1,000 entries ahead of the competition's close yesterday.
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