By Aneesa Malik
Unsightly, offensive and inappropriate; just a few of the comebacks to the latest American Apparel advert in which a Bangladeshi model is posing with nothing but a pair of open-buttoned jeans-whilst discreetly being covered by the rather ironic words- “Made in Bangladesh”.
The up-market brand which is famously recognised for opposing the sweatshop working environment, released the campaign, in which Maks- a proud American girl, of Bangladeshi heritage is expressing her freedom and individuality. After approaching American Apparel, they provided Asian World with this statement.
“A woman continuously in search of new creative outlets, Maks unreservedly embraced this photo shoot. She has found some elements of Southern California culture to be immediately appealing, but is striving to explore what lies beyond the city’s superficial pleasures.”
Underneath the controversial image is a short description of Maks, who is described as a merchandiser who has been with American Apparel since 2010. Born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, at age four, her family made a life-changing move to Marina Del Rey, California. Although she suddenly found herself a world away from Dhaka, she continued following her parent’s religious traditions and sustained her Islamic faith throughout her childhood. Upon entering high school, Maks began to feel the need to forge her own identity and ultimately distanced herself from Islamic traditions.
For two countries, who are poles apart- not only economically but morally, Maks’ proposed sincerity has sparked uproar. With the majority of the Bangladeshi community practising the conservatism of Islam, this advert could not have deviated from their beliefs enough.
“She 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. That’s what makes her essential to the mosaic that is Los Angeles, and unequivocally, a distinct figure in the ever-expanding American Apparel family”, the statement continued.
Maks has tarnished the stereotypical image of a Bangladeshi woman who would- in an ideal setting be propped up against a sewing machine, frantically working to make ends meet. Although she may be earning enough for a disposable income, she is supporting a different kind of oppression. It could be classed as another cheap attempt to sell clothes on the backs of those who fought for feminists’ rights for equality. Using sex to sell isn’t anything deviant coming from a brand that is typically associated with highly sexed and racy adverts.
However, for many, using a woman’s sexuality to define her is in fact the point this advert was trying to highlight. In the same way a man is often pictured topless, promoting a pair of jeans, this campaign tries to eliminate gender from the equation.