American Apparel: Their message to the industry

American Apparel is fantastic at challenging society and expectations to get media attention.

American Apparel is fantastic at challenging society and expectations to get media attention. Their Valentine’s Day windows of mannequins sporting pubic hair were hugely reported and they received a lot of praise from feminists along with some disgust from other parties for the controversial campaign. 

And now AA have caught the media’s attention once again as they revealed Jacky O’Shaughnessy, their 62-year-old underwear model, who previously modelled for the company’s Advanced Basics campaign back in 2011.

To make the announcement the company posted a picture of Jacky wearing floral lace lingerie on Facebook and Instagram, claiming that “sexy has no expiration date.”

The photo currently has over 2,000 likes on Facebook and 17,200 likes on Instagram. The story and photo has been reported on several news outlets and widely shared on social media, with comments ranging from praise (“beautiful”), to disgust (“old as dirt”), to uncertainty (“why don’t you say sexy has no “size” [SIC]).

They got our attention

What American Apparel has done is, without a doubt, amazing. The modelling industry has such a fixed checklist on what a model should look like, bringing in an older beauty like Jacky not only challenges these norms, but also gives a better representation of what regular women look like (not everyone can be a super tall, super slim, perfect-skinned ‘goddess’ like the girls we see strutting down the catwalk).

This move is also genius from a marketing perspective as it appeals to older women who generally have more disposable income than an average woman in her twenties. Plus, I’m pretty sure the buzz this photo has created is more effective than advertising!

Cheaper too—they wanted media attention and, just like they did with their natural mannequins, they got it.

Personally though, I can’t help but wonder, who would want to buy Granny’s knickers? They don’t even match! The photo demotivates me to buy their underwear, especially if it’s something a gran would wear.

Then again, maybe I’m not the target audience. I can see how it might motivate an older woman who wants to still look sexy as she ages. After all, Jacky has aged rather gracefully.

And what about the generations between American Apparel’s usual models and Jacky? Will they get models to represent those? Women dread turning 40, so where’s the beautiful 40 year old woman to fill in the gap?

Effective in the long term?

To be honest, I don’t think that age is the biggest issue that the modelling industry needs to tackle. We all get old and we’ll have to accept that, but we won’t all experience being a certain size.

While I do admire what AA have done, I think a plus size model (and plus size mannequins) would have been much more effective at challenging industry norms and representing and supporting bigger women.

What do you think of American Apparel’s new model? Excellent marketing and power to older women, or are grannies in underwear something you want to avoid seeing? Have your say in the comments section below.