Here's How American Apparel Is Taking Sex Out of Its Ads

A new presentation reveals plans for advertisements that are "positive" and "socially conscious"

An American Apparel shop on the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 19th Street in New York in February 2014.

Photographer: Craig Warga

After years of criticism over using scandalous photos of young women in its advertising, American Apparel will finally cover up.

The company outlined its turnaround plan in a 39-slide investor presentation, filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, entitled "Chaotic to Iconic." In a bid to convince investors it's moving forward from months of mayhem since firing founder Dov Charney, the presentation explains American Apparel's plans to streamline operations, improve stores, and revamp the brand.

The presentation also details plans to grow American Apparel, which hauled in $609 million in 2014, into a $1 billion business. But first, the company needs to mend its troubled reputation.

In three slides, American Apparel shows investors exactly how it's ditching the racy ads that were typical under Charney, who was forced out last year and remains at odds with the company he founded in 1989. American Apparel says those kinds of ads went too far in their use of "nudity and blatant sexual innuendo" (indeed, some were banned in the U.K. for being "exploitative" of young women). Instead, the company is now shooting for imagery that's "positive," "inclusive," and "socially conscious."

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Chief Executive Paula Schneider mentioned scrubbing the brand of its lewdness in a February interview with Bloomberg. But she also stressed that she doesn't want the brand to be labeled as boring. “It doesn’t have to be overtly sexual,” she said. “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.”

American Apparel provides before-and-after shots in the presentation, though it seems executives were careful to leave out the most sordid of old American Apparel ads, which have included porn stars and frontal nudity.

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