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made in bangladesh american apparel

Meet Maks, American Apparel's new Bengali Muslim model

Is this a jab at the Bangladesh garment industry? A comment on Islam? Who knows

American Apparel have never been a company afraid to make provocative statements in their advertising; their last campaign featured a 62-year old former model exercising and they've come under fire in the past for allegedly exploiting underage models. Enter their most recent ad, which features Maks, a 22-year-old Muslim AA employee, who poses topless in high waist jeans with the words "Made in Bangladesh" across her breasts. 

The advert is pretty typical of the brand: controversial, highly sexed, and a guaranteed conversation starter. But what are they trying to say? Is it a comment on the Bangladesh sweatshops favoured by other high street stores, which American Apparel eschews in favour American factories and manufacturing?

Or is it an ad that challenges preconceived notions of Muslim and/or Bengali women? The ad notes that Maks was born into a conservative Muslim family and sustained her Islamic faith throughout her childhood, but "doesn't feel the need to identify herself as an American or a Bengali and is not content to fit her life into anyone else's conventional narrative". 

Either way, some aren't too impressed: Bengali fashion writer Tanwi Nandini Islam argues that the ad doesn't do much to add to the long-running debate over how fashion can tackle the underpaid and dangerous sweatshop industry.

"This is what our fantasy of what Made in Bangladesh looks like," Islam argues. "Not a poor, underpaid, overworked young woman making you a $5 shirt for 30 cents an hour. This ad has little to do with the woman in front of us, and everything to do with the Bangladeshi female garment worker who remains invisible."

American Apparel are refusing to comment, stating that "they want the ad to speak for itself". What do you think?