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American Apparel is quitting with the ‘overtly sexual’ ads

Its new CEO wants to rebrand the company, starting with those eyebrow-raising campaigns

American Apparel's new CEO is on the PR warpath, and she's making it clear that the brand is due for a big shake-up. Paula Schneider was appointed as CEO after controversial founder Dov Charney was fired from his own company. In short: no more crotch shot campaigns. 

“It doesn’t have to be overtly sexual,” Schneider told Business of Fashion about her new advertising approach. “There’s a way to tell our story where it’s not offensive. It is an edgy brand. And it will continue to be an edgy brand.”

At some point, American Apparel became more well known for its racy ads and questionable campaign headlines than its ethical manufacturing processes and cotton denier tights. (Take, for instance, this campaign featuring a topless Bengali model, with the words "Made in Bangladesh" campaign printed across her breasts. Or this ad with the headline "Tights", illustrated by a woman apparently photographed mid-orgasm. We could go on.)

Schneider wants to get away from all that. Instead, social issues are going to top the agenda, starting with LGBT rights and anti-bullying. She's also keen to emphasise the brand's made-in-America ethos and its cachet with millenials – both things that got a little lost once Charney got accused of being a creeper to staff.  

"The beauty of this company is that it’s a millennial customer," Schneider said. "So many people are trying for that and have no way to get there. We have that. And we can expand the demographics."

That's probably the reason for American Apparel's newest model: Brendan Jordan, the openly gay teen who catapulted to fame after being captured vogueing in the background of a local news report. In a decidedly more tasteful campaign released two months ago, Jordan was photographed in a range of AA gear, including a bright pink PVC skirt.

"We were inspired by Brendan after seeing his fearless act of spontaneity and applaud his efforts with the LGBTQ community," the ad read. 

But Schneider isn't fully dispensing with the idea that sex sells – or at least, she's trying to broaden its appeal beyond the male gaze. In a new video advert called Are you ready for #Pantytime?, a diverse group of models – including plus-size women as well as men in drag –  dance around in the brand's signature underwear.

"It has to be a little sexy,” Schneider explained. “We sell lingerie. We sell hosiery. You just make sure we aren’t crossing the line. It should be about empowering women, empowering people."

So tell us, millenials: do you find this video empowering?