Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Made In Bangladesh

“By sexualising a phrase reserved for labelling clothes, we see exploitation at its most provocative” (Nandini Islam, 2014).

This advert by American Apparel operates under the guise of being a protest, but in reality it is shameless self-promotion. This is not the first of the clothing company’s controversial advertising campaigns. In the past eyebrows have been raised over the overtly sexualised nature of their ads, the use of a 65-year old lingerie model and the display of pubic hair on shop mannequins. None of these promotions are necessarily a bad thing, but it must always be remembered that American Apparel is a business. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ refer to the model in the photo; 22 year-old Maks is a merchandiser for AA, she was born in Bangladesh but has lived in California since the age of four. The aim of the advert is to draw attention to the fact that American Apparel’s garments are manufactured in downtown L.A. and not downtown Dhaka.

The advert relies on the audience having prior knowledge of the issues surrounding garment manufacture in Bangladesh.  Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed over 1000 people in 2013, mean that more consumers are aware of the poor working conditions in some clothing factories. However, without this prior knowledge the advert appears to criticise all garment manufacture in Bangladesh, with little nuance for the intricacies of the ethics involved. Even with a little background knowledge the advert provides no explanation of their condemnation of garment manufacture in Bangladesh. A typically reductionist approach, the ad boasts that the jeans were crafted by, "23 skilled American workers in Downtown Los Angeles, all of whom are paid a fair wage and have access to basic benefits such as healthcare”. How lucky for those workers in the USA – the wealthiest country in the world – to have such a fair workplace. Shaming the workers in Bangladesh, as this ad does, has a detrimental impact on their fight for safer working conditions and reasonable wages. Instead AA should be campaigning for other Western clothing manufacturers to provide their workers with a fair living wage, not discouraging consumers from buying clothes manufactured in Bangladesh. Boycotting those factories will not solve the problem.  

In keeping with the American Apparel trend the ad contains a bio about the model. Maks was born into a strict Islamic family in Bangladesh before they moved to California when she was four. ‘She continued following her parent’s religious traditions and sustained her Islamic faith throughout her childhood.’ The relevance of the model’s religiosity is not quite clear, apart from upping the controversial nature of the ad – the topless young woman in conflict with her faith – the move seems desperate. Would the ad not have grabbed enough headlines had her conservative Muslim family not got a mention? Almost in anticipation of the criticism expected for using a young topless female model the bio also states that, ‘Maks unreservedly embraced this photo shoot’. The message: she's cool with it so you should be too. Chill out, man.

The high waisted jeans, which are supposedly what is being advertised, are barely visible suggesting that AA prioritises it’s ethics above its products. Whilst manufacturing clothes ethically may give American Apparel the moral high ground, unfortunately it does not equal profits. In 2013 the company made a net loss for the year, $122.1 million, compared with a $37.2 million net loss for 2012. The dismal financial results may go some way towards explaining the clumsy and frantic attempt to drum up controversy, and therefore publicity, in this advertisement. American Apparel had an opportunity to educate consumers about the garment manufacturing industry, but sacrificed this at the altar of self-interest. It is not a strategy that will work in the long run.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

We have the right to make mistakes

The lives of Amber Langford and Annie Collinge, both 19 and attending the University of Chester, have been changed irrevocably since they won a Halloween fancy dress competition, wearing the Twin Towers as outfits. The girls won the competition for 'Best Dressed', but today they won't be celebrating. Instead their student union has publicly condemned them, when really they should be defending them as the media slowly tears them apart and throws them to the baying crowds


Dressing up as the Twin Towers for Halloween absolutely is poor taste, but neither of the girls deserve to be getting dragged backwards through the media as they are at the moment. Nor should they have been 'lynched' as one facebook user just put it on a link posted about the story. In some ways the girls already have been. Lynching means murder by mob, usually by hanging. This story will hang around them for the rest of their lives. Tomorrow no-one else will care, there will be some other SHOCKING  incident that the Daily Mail will put as it's headline story on the website, (I'm gonna guess that maybe Miley Cyrus will get her tit out somewhere and DM will be DISGUSTED and print versions of the photo from many angles to demonstrate), but for these two girls it may be weeks until they feel they can carry on with their lives as normal. I know, I hear you saying, the families of the victims of 9/11, their lives will never be the same again. There is no denying that.

What the girls did was ill thought-out and disrespectful. It was stupid. But we've all done it. I certainly have. Everyone has said something and immediately wished you could take it back. Made a joke and thought with hindsight it was just that little bit too dark. It gives you that cringe feeling in your stomach that you just can't shift. It's making the 'ya mum' joke and in the same second remembering that the persons Mum died a few years previously. The other person is usually your mate and laughs and shrugs it off but for days after you can't stop thinking about how insensitive you were.

The problem is that nowadays, with social media and camera phones, these mistakes can spread quickly and be in the public domain forever. One of my biggest fears is something like what happened to these two, happening to me. Neither of these girls are celebrities, role models or in the public eye and so why the story made the national news anyway astounds me. Who the fuck contacted the newspaper in the first place? I switched on This Morning and even they were talking about it. Prince Harry dressing as a Nazi is outrageous, not even because he is in the public eye, but because he has advisers who tell him exactly what to do.  He doesn't have to think for himself. 'Normal' people don't have that luxury and making poor judgments is all part of growing up. It's scary how just one stupid mistake, that in the past may have got you a stern telling off from an elder, can now seriously impact the rest of your life.

We all have a right to make mistakes. Here's an example of someone who payed for it aged 17 for tweets they had posted at 14. And it does have a long-term impact. Everyone knows now that prospective employers google applicants names. Anyone who wants a successful career which might land them in the public eye, and I mean being Police Commissioner not a contestant on I'm A Celebrity...runs the risk of having their past dug up and put on display for the public to judge. We are the first generation to have almost their entire lives documented and society has yet to catch up with this.

As I side note - I googled Twin Towers Fancy Dress in order to get a photo for this article and these two girls are not the first people to attend a party in this outfit.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Too little, too late

I haven't blogged in fucking forever because life got busy and a lot of the stuff that I was doing I would then write about for my internship and writing about something twice is less fun. So much has happened I don't even remember it all myself so I think the best thing to do is dump a load of pictures in this post, then my OCD side will feel a sense of closure.

Winter was fucking cold.

My beautiful apartment. 

People actually attend the Labour Day event on the 1st of May. Most of them sit and drink in the park. 

Irene and I cycled 62 miles in a day. We visited Kronborg castle in Helsingør. Otherwise known as Hamlet's castle. 

We went to Malmo in Sweden to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. Denmark won!

I dyed my hair pink. 

Then I lost my mind for 4 days as Distortion took over the city. 

I attended the launch of Yoko Ono's exhibition at Louisiania. 

We started saying goodbye to good friends. Marine! 

Sentimentality kicked in. 

Fran went home.


Jack's last evening.