American Apparel mannequins in New York go provocatively au natural

American Apparel, never one to shy away from a good advertising stunt, raised eyebrows in New York on Thursday with a set of female mannequins looking, well … very natural.

As Gothamist explains, the mannequins are on display at the East Houston storefront in New York’s Lower East Side and were made specifically for that store; in other words, you shouldn’t look forward to seeing any risque mannequins at a store near you. Asked why American Apparel had gone that particular route, a representative told Gothamist that:

“American Apparel is a company that celebrates natural beauty, and the Lower East Side Valentine’s Day window continues that celebration. We created it to invite passerby’s to explore the idea of what is ‘sexy’ and consider their comfort with the natural female form. This is the same idea behind our advertisements which avoid many of the photoshopped and airbrushed standards of the fashion industry.”

Right. He’s referring, for the record, to the same advertising campaigns that were banned by the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority for demeaning women, and that have sparked protests outside of stores in New York for depicting ladies as “disembodied butts and boobs.” So it seems likely that American Apparel’s motives are more capitalist than feminist, banking on the same theory of controversial advertising buzz that previously brought you topless models, grinding pelvises, and all the other pseudo-smut in American Apparel’s soft-porn arsenal.

This is, in fact, not even the first time American Apparel has used pubic hair in a controversial ad — the company previously featured Sasha Grey in a photo spread that left little about her personal grooming to the imagination, and also ran a French campaign featuring an au natural model. At the time, commentators such as Slate’s Jessica Grose called the ads “provocative,” which is surely just what chief executive Dov Charney aimed for.

In 2014, though, do we still think an unmanicured lady-scape is groundbreakingly edgy? And doesn’t American Apparel’s massive corporate profit motive kind of undercut the brand of liberated transgression they’re trying to sell? (To quote Katie Presley at the feminist magazine Bitch, “Pubic hair! … You’re allowed to to have it! Just make sure you cover it with OUR underwear.”)

Besides, as the New York Times so helpfully informed us just last month, pubic hair for ladies is officially back “in.” Regrettably, that isn’t stopping the retailer from getting a publicity boost from the shock factor. More than 3,500 tweets mentioned “American Apparel” over the last 24 hours — the biggest spike the company has seen since October.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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