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American Apparel: From Emo to Euro

February 7, 2011

I had an interesting conversation with my friend the other day at Starbucks (I try to avoid the coffee monopoly but I can’t resist their soy lattes). The subject was American Apparel; in particular, their enormous campaign change; something that I had suspected for a year now. It’s no secret that American Apparel is trying to change its image: from a cheap store for colorful leggings and over-sized sweatshirts (I like that one shoulder look, still), reminiscent of the 80’s, to Euro-chic.

My last shopping trip at American Apparel resulted in the purchases of black, high waisted leggings (I still swear by them), a basic, wide neck-line, long sleeved navy mini dress (super, super comfy and super, super versatile), and long trouser socks ( I need to stop loosing mine!). While I came to American Apparel for basics, as I always do, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the new lacey tops, high waisted cotton trousers, silk blouses, cut out wool tights, and delicate chiffon skirts, which have become new staples of the store. A new style has emerged here: girly, festive, and dare-I say, classy?

January 2011

January 2011

January 2011

In the old days, Class and American Apparel would never be linked. But, “the times, they are a changin.” The result? A new-found respect for this mass-merchandiser.

As an Advertising major (and soon to be creative director of Chanel *) I always focus on brands’ campaigns and identities. At the moment, I like what I see at American Apparel.

Wool Cape; perfect for cold weather (Syracuse approved too). Shot in gorgeous Spain. Model: Anna

Great blouse. Wear it with a high waisted skirt, linen cotton pants (for Spring), wide leg jeans, or paired with a smart business suit.

Not a coat that I would particularly choose for winter. But I like that it's unisex--great for sharing with your best guy friend.

Adventurous enough? Model: Diane

Must-Have Pant for spring and an easy to wear cable knit sweater


Not feeling the skirt. And the bow tie is not something I will be doing. But it's different...Shot in Paris, France--city of my dreams

What you now see is a departure from the raw and gritty images of past years. The integrity of using a “provocative, real, unpretentious aesthetic” is still there, but now their images are more comparable to European Vogue, rather than the cd cover insert of Ke$ha’s album:

It also seems that American Apparel may be straying away from using real** girls, selected from a pool of the company’s employees and friends, as models. There are some exceptions, but the girls are certainly far above “average”. I’m pretty sure that most of the models have modeling contracts–if not they can probably walk into any ad agency and score one. Pay attention to the advertisements’ captions of individual models in each campaign: a great concept.

The key to effective advertising is constant change; after a while a theme runs itself out and change is required to stay novel and ahead of the curve. No one wants to be predictable…seems that American Apparel has understood this. Yes, the sexuality is still there. Yes, the amateur-ish photography style is still there (though, there’s less of that now). And Yes, they still highlight leggings (why wouldn’t they after-all show their best-selling product?). But using natural scenery, action shots, foreign locations and a more tranquil mood are new elements to their advertising.

I say out with the old and in with the new. I hope American Apparel continues re-inventing still, of course, without losing its original integrity. Can’t wait to see their evolution.

*statement is purely imagination-based

** not anorexic models

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