Don’t Buy American

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I have no idea how I missed this. American Apparel spearheaded a search for plus-size models called “The Next BIG Thing”. Self-identified plus-sized women could submit their photos, and site visitors could vote on which one should be the face of American Apparel’s new plus-size line. Now that doesn’t sound so bad, unless you know anything about American Apparel. Nancy Upton did. The size twelve Texan entered the contest tongue-in-cheek–and pie and chicken and chocolate syrup–and, thanks to lots of laudatory press coverage, WON. Now American Apparel is invalidating Upton’s victory and rescinding any offers made in the campaign in an asinine letter full of bile and spin. At the end of her missive slamming Upton’s efforts and upholding the profoundly impeachable integrity of CEO Dov Charney (“American Industrialist”! In caps!), Creative Director Iris Alonzo offhandedly writes

“Oh – and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have 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.”

Bad grammar, bad sports, bad business. Of course this is one of the great ironies of American Apparel: whatever virtuous practices it claims to espouse in the production of its clothing and the pay of its employees are negated by almost everything else it does. This is a great example for my research of the struggles to capitalize and negotiate the meanings of body size, but I also can’t deny how much I love it when American Apparel shows its ass and gets called on it. Seriously, folks, just don’t buy it.

Postscript: A JEZEBEL post points out that Upton did write that “I most certainly would not model for American Apparel, because (pretty obviously) I don’t agree with their business practices”, so it could be argued that American Apparel is really just responding to Upton’s own statement. However, I’d also counter that the company seems pretty open to parody when it’s not the target.

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