American Apparel Responds to Offensive Employee Shirt Controversy

November 23rd 2015

Diana Crandall

American Apparel is discontinuing a controversial slogan after an anonymous employee spoke out about the sexist nature of the shirt.

The anonymous employee reportedly told Jezebel that the company was asking retail workers to wear shirts that say “Ask Me to Take It All Off” during Black Friday this week.

A spokesperson from American Apparel told ATTN: by email that as of today, they are no longer asking employees to wear the shirts.

“This slogan on these tee shirts – which were distributed to both male and female employees as optional – was originally intended to be a play on words to engage customers during our Black Friday Sale, which features an additional 50 percent off items that are already marked down 50 percent. We understand that this offended an individual employee who spoke up about his / her concerns. American Apparel is a company that values free speech, and most importantly, creating an environment where employees feel valued, protected, and safe. As such, we have decided to discontinue this slogan and will seek other ways to stay creative and push the envelope, which is part of our brand DNA.”

The employee in question told Jezebel that the shirts acted as a conduit for harassment.

“American Apparel is giving my consent to our customers to harass me, if I wear that shirt,” the employee told Jezebel.

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Employees who did not want to wear the shirt were asked to wear a plain black shirt with a button that displayed the same message, the employee told Jezebel.

“Now they are actively encouraging our patrons to sexually harass me and my colleagues, some of whom are as young as 15... there’s no question in my mind that anyone wearing the shirt will face inappropriate comments from customers."

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American Apparel filed for bankruptcy in October of this year, the New York Times reports. The company also replaced their CEO Dov Charney in December of 2014 as part of a brand overhaul. Charney was fired after he was accused of sending sexually explicit emails and text messages to employees, the Huffington Post reports.

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The new CEO, Paula Schneider, told the Guardian earlier this month that American Apparel is going to taper some of the more explicit imagery and behaviors that are associated with the brand.

“As a woman and a feminist, I want to celebrate women and ensure whatever we are doing doesn’t denigrate women, but I still think women are sexy and we are still a sexy brand,” she reportedly said.

This isn't the first time American Apparel has come under fire for its provocative billboards and advertising. The company was criticized for photo-shopping nipples and pubic hair out of their online photos. They also were denounced for portraying underage girls in sexually provocative positions.