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Fashion Matters American Apparel Alexander Wang

American Apparel Alexander Wang

T h e N o w, T h e T h e n & T h e O t h e r by B aibi n D ow ne y - O r r

American Apparel Alexander Wang

American Apparel Alexander Wang

American Apparel Alexander Wang

Fashion Matters:

T h e No w, T h e T h e n & T h e O t h e r

Fashion Communication & Promotion Baibin Downey-Orr N0477448 Vi s u a l a n a l y s i s Luc y Norris Fash10105


Contents Int ro du c t i on


fig. 1

T h e Now

The Then

The Other

T h e Now

The Then

The Other


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C o n c l u s i o n 42 R e f e r e n c e s 43-44 B i b l i o g r ap hy 45-46 I l l u s t a t i o n s 47 3


Introduction American Apparel and Alexander Wang are both very minimal, contemporary brands. They both aim toward young, trendy, casual, edgy people. However it is interesting to see if two brands, one high street, one luxury, were influenced by the same things? And how do they continue to use technology to develop their brands?

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Amer ic an App arel


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American Apparel is an extremely technologically savvy brand. They use a large range of different social networks and media collaborations in order to further connect with their consumers on a personal level. For example Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used frequently to keep followers of the brand up to date with almost everything that happens within the company. Images of prototype garments, employees, window displays and mood boards are regularly posted along with videos showing informal chats with some of the models they use and information on future collaborations, giving consumers an insight into the company and the famous LA factory. They use these social networks to advertise jobs and events within the hundreds of stores world 6

wide and to post discount codes for thier online store, this exclusivity to their online followers in a clever incentive for more people to regularly check the sites, helping the brand create a viral buzz and gain more publicity. Links to style guides are often posted along with real consumers thoughts on the clothes for believable and free product endorsement. This extensive use of technology and social media is a major part of the brands success as sharing so much of the inner workings of the factory and product development with their followers really allows for a seemingly personal connection between brand and consumer. It shows the company as the natural, un censored, ambassadors of equality that they pride them selves of being, whilst spreading the company throughout the world via the Internet.

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American Apparels creative use of social media was ever more enhanced when they collaborated with, an invite only online community of

member who post their outfits. (Crosby, 2010) They used images of real people who posted images of themselves wearing American apparel garments to create a 64 page look book that’s is now available for free in store and online.

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The brands main interest behind the look book was to show outsiders perspective and uses for their products by engaging with real life fashion influencers. Both and American Apparel then went on to use more social networks in order to advertise and promote the look book, mainly by using twitter and adverts on Facebook and The Satoralist. (Wright, 2010)


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The company also uses technology as a way to help their online store and shops grow and develop. RFID tagging for example, is now used throughout all 280 of the stores in order to increase stock visibility leading to improved customer service, higher customer satisfaction and therefore higher rate of sales. There are lower costs due to reduced labor as there are now fewer human errors and stock checking is now more frequent and accurate. These improvements offset the initial cost of RFID installment meaning immediate benefit for the company. (Swedberg, 2012)

The online platform was also recently updated to using Oracle Commerce, this enable the online presence personalize shopping, improve the speed of the site and therefore increase sales and improve customers’ online experience. This update caused a rapid increase in online sales causing them to grow by 59% in December 2011, being the company’s highest recorded sales to date. (anon, 2013) 11



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American apparel has two major influences from the

everything sold in American apparel screams Flash

past that come together in a creative

dance and “lets get physical’. The simplicity of the

collaboration to form a unique aesthetic that is now

clothes block colour and shapes make them ideal

iconic and totally recognizable as American


Apparel. The first and most obvious being the 80s era

The brand embrace the 80s appearance of their

influence on the clothing design.( SaeNgian 2008)

clothes, calling a pair of leggings they sell “disco

From Lycra leggings in a whole spectrum of colours

pants” and mimicking 80s style aerobics outfits in

to thong leotards and scrunchies,(Tucknott, 2011)

their adverts.


The 80s were a time gender barriers began to be blurred through the appearance of androgynous singers such as Annie Lennox and David Bowie. (Brown,2012) It became more acceptable for men and women to wear the same style of clothes and this is something that American apparel continue to make more acceptable, where as many other mainstream high street shops such as Topshop & Topman have a very obvious and ridged separation of male and female clothes, American apparel brand many of its most popular garments are unisex, they are very open about this and this appears to be why it is so popular with “hipsters’ and other such people who try to make a statement to society about not wanting to conform to what’s expected.(Horgan, 2010) At American apparel both male and female can choose to wear clothes from the same shelves without being judged. Another rebellious trend from the 80s now adopted by American apparel is wearing lingerie as outer wear (Tomkins, 2010) which is seen in many of there adverts and causes a lot of controversy, however the openly sexual nature of many of the adverts and of the brand as a whole, as I will discuss further later, could all be linked back to a reference to the 80s and the “sexual revolution” that happened in that era.

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Another hugely influential element on the aesthetics of American apparel as a brand is the Bauhaus movement. This is mainly seen in the visualmerchandising displays in store along with their advert design. For example both often feature grids, be it on the walls of their shops or in the background of their print adverts, along with block colours, geometric shapes and simple, bold, sans serif fonts incorporated with photography, all of which a are massively reminiscent of the Bauhaus style. (Ambrose, 2007) The minimalism of Bauhaus is apparent in every visual aspect of the brand. Even the factory in which the clothes are manufactured sticks to the aesthetics seen in the shops and some of the values of Bauhaus such as the craftsman ship of products is also adopted by American Apparel as they also take pride in the ethical manufacturing on their clothes. The Bauhaus influence on the brand most likely comes from the founder and CEO Dov Charney’s upbringing, his Father was an architect who worked with Moshe Safdie to design Habitat 67,(Charney, 2009) the geometric shapes and grid like structure seen in the building screams Bauhaus so it is no wonder that this style of design has rubbed off on Dov.


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O t her

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American apparel have cause a lot of social and political controversy through their advertising and campaigns. The most obvious reason for controversy being the sexualized nature of their adverts.


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“We photograph models in a way that’s honest, so we aren’t so constrained by the rules.”(anon, 2010)

The companies advertising strategist Ryan Holiday said

Their ads are becomingly increasingly controversial. Something the brand seems to endorse, Dov the founder and CEO of the brand seems eager to shock consumers with ever more extremely sexualised images of. Dov himself has caused a lot of controversy, he was accused of sexually exploiting female employees and now every employee is asked to sign a contract saying they will not discuss the inner workings of the company with the press.(Morriesy,2012)However he seems to thrive off the bad press and continues to push the boundaries of advertising. In fact a recent advert was banned in the UK after being dubbed too inappropriate for portraying a seemingly under age girl in a sexual nature. (Sweney, 2012) It’s been said that if you removed the text from the adverts it would appear to simply be pornographic imagery and where many brands would have been put off by this, American apparel took it in their strive and have since used real porn stars as their models. (Barrett, 2009) The reason for continuously pushing the boundaries of advertising standard is because is causes hype for the brand, making them controversial and talked about. It shows they have a rebellious kind of attitude and it’s expected that their target market will respond well to this and will continue to support the brand for being so radical. (Barrett, 2009) fig. 15


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Another political statement that Dov Charney has made is the fact all the clothes are manufactured in their LA factory. They’re very proud of their LA factory and the craftsmenship behind their clothes. Because of this they often feature the factory and factory workers with in their adverts be it of them wearing the clothes, making them or packaging them. (American Apparel, 2013)They also only use supposedly genuine employees from the factory and shops as their models to show that they use “real people”.


Operation manager Brent Chase said, “Our

models are real girls who are often employees or friends of the company, and the images aren’t Photoshop-ed. Somtimes people are made uncomfortable by this, and it occasionally causes an unfortunate reaction.” (Morriesy,2012) in May 2010 they were accused of this being untrue as apparently they had used professional models, however this is something that’s still denied.( Morriesy,2012)


The company is also known for two other main campaigns, Legalize LA and GAY OK. Legalize LA refers for their support for calling an immigration reform act. Dov believes that since so many USA companies are at least co founded by immigrants which they go on to provide jobs for USA citizens, that it’s only fair for them to be allowed to live and work in the USA legally.(Harrison, 2011) GAY OK or Legalize GAY was a campaign started by American Apparel in 2008. It was to show that they believe that all sexualities should be celebrated and they did this by releasing a line of GAY OK and legalize GAY t-shirts that were sold throughout the USA. Employees and supporters of the company then wore these in a Rally by the LA factory in order to show their support for sexuality equality.(American Apparel, 2010)

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By choosing to support such issues it gives the brand some of the powers that these issues can evoke, they’re very controversial and can cause a lot of mixed feeling but this helps the brand to stay edgy. It’s presumed that many of the brand’s target market will in fact be gay or bisexual themselves and that they will tend to share the same views as Dov on immigration.( American Apparel, 2010) It’s expected they will be culturally aware and excepting of difference and these are they types of people that Dov wants to be the brand ambassadors so by choosing seemingly cool, edgy, controversial issues like these it makes the brand appear cool and edgy therefore attracting cool and edgy customers.

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Alexander Wang uses online technology to enhance his online store, making it less of just a typical shopping website and more of an interesting, creative, informative online gallery as such. For example there are numerous videos embedded within the site showing artistically directed and edited footage of previous collections and runway shows, confessions (videos following models and their stories) interviews with Wang himself on subjects such as opening his first flag ship store in

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Soho and the Beijing store, in which we find out his intentions and inspirations behind the spaces he creates, and also many of his advertising campaigns as well as a behind the scenes look at the making of them. Another page of the website shows many images of other creative projects by Wang, for example images of installations and his pop up shop. The site also has a digital look book for each season making it easily accessible for people to look through the runways shows and provides a written overview of the particular collections.

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creative and extensive use of digital technology allows the consumer to have a full immersive online experience of the designers work and gives an insight into the company. This


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The webpage also has links to the designers’ official Facebook and twitter pages. Social networks like this are a very useful and common way for designers to connect further with the public and Wangs’ are no exception. They include posts of things such as photos of celebrities seen wearing Wang garments along with sale updates, product endorsement and links to some of the most recent ad campaigns. Scanned in pages of magazines are also uploaded as a way of showing customers how the brand is currently 30

being shown within the media and to keep then aware of any news they may of missed out on. There is also a number of competitions that are posted which again is a way of trying to involve customer further then purely just as a retail consumer, and also helps to establish a stronger online presence for the brand as the exclusivity to social media followers will entice people to join their online community so as not to miss out on such information and opportunities.

Another member exclusive media platform that Wang uses is Live Stream. Milk studios featured Alexander Wangs spring 2013 runways show on new. allowing members’ globally to view the live show online. (Richardson, 2011) Wang also uses technology to enhance his in store customer experience, the in store IPad app designed by AD60 helps to engage his audience by showcasing styles from his collections. The app was

designed to resemble the appearance of the physical look book along with additional interactive elements that are made possible with the IPads touch screen abilities.(Tadas, 2011) With out the use of these technologies and social medias the brand would be purely a clothing label however by using such a variety of media platforms it enhances the customers overall experience.


Alexander Wang is known for being one of the most influential, contemporary, young designers of the recent times,(Voguepedia,2009) however, looking into his collections its obvious to see how this “contemporary� look has been made up of various trends, TV shows and designers that



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influenced him as a teenager growing up in the 80/90s. He takes looks that we are familiar with that are now seem as outdated and trashy such as the 80ship hop trend of running shorts but combines them with luxurious fabrics and precise tailoring to create something modern. (You, 2007)


The main influence of the 80s that has rubbed off on not only Wang’s designs but also on the visual communication and styling of the adverts is the 80-grunge movement/music genre.(Haus of Rhianna, 2012) Grunge is genre formed in Seattle the aesthetic of which is very stripped back in comparison to similar genres such as rock music and the musicians who were part of the music scene reflected this in their appearances. Often seen as being very unkempt with unwashed hair, darkened eyes and cheap looking, durable, timeless clothes such as baggy jumpers and ripped jeans. (Reggaini, 2012) Unlike other musicians at the time grunge bands tended not to put on high budget stage shows such as using pyrotechnics another visual affects in order to present them selves as no different from the local bands they began as. (Anon, unknown) This stripped back, casual, timeless clothing and unkept appearance is a look that is seen constantly through out many of Wang’s catwalk shows and campaigns.


fig. 26


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Wang is the pioneer of the “ Model Off Duty”

(Voquepedia,2009) the similarity of their

look,(Nevitt, 2008) which combines the unwashed

signature looks is explained. Other influences

hair, baggy top and ripped shorts and darkened

from the 80s/90 that have apparently

eyes style of grunge along with a chic twist to

subconsciously inspired Alexander Wang are

create an effortless, “walk of shame” yet incredibly

some of the teenage TV shows that were popular

stylish appearance.(Givham, 2012)

at the time for example Saved by the Bell. Again he

Mark Jacobs is known for his “grunge-Chic” look

takes the obviously recognizably 80s shaped such

that is so often seen in his catwalk shows

as bomber jackets and recreates them as tailored

(Riggaini, 2012) and after learning that in his

pieces in high-end fabrics.(Odell, 2009)

early year Wang interned at marc Jacobs, 36

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jackets and recreates them as tailored pieces in

intense use of black and white imagery’s and thick

high-end fabrics.(Odell, 2009)

block sans serif fonts as well as the shapes and

In terms of other designers whose past work has

colours used throughout both designers work are

influenced Wang the obvious and seemingly only

undoubtedly similar, however it is not a surprise

answer is Austrian designer Helmut Lang.

considering Wang is highly influenced by trends

(Layers&Swathes, 2010) I was astounded to see

he saw growing up and Helmut Lang was most

the similarities between his advertising campaigns

widely seen at this time.

and webpage and that of alexander Wangs. The


fig. 29

fig. 30


O t her

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Alexander Wang has always been inspired by music

revolutionary in their industry, they help each other

genres such as grunge and hip-hop as I mentioned

thrive.(Warburton, 2012) Wang helps to boost her

earlier, however his influence from music does not

fashion credibility and brings her to the forefront of

stop at his clothing design. Musicians are a huge

the fashion industry and she helps to give his brand

factor of alexander Wang brand, in particular his

the cool street edge that she is associated with. In fact

“T” collection. For example all of his T campaign

all the people Wang has chosen to collaborate with

video feature a musician, wearing his clothes and

appear to be at the same cultural vertical as him.

rapping including Santigold and Spank Rock and

The people he uses are all seen as cool and edgy and

the two most well known, his spring 2012 campaign

make music for a young trendy audience. By using

with south African “rap rave crew” Die Antwoord

these people as his models for ad campaigns along

and his Fall 2012 campaign featuring new to the pop

with their music as his soundtrack to many of his

scene, rapper Azealia Banks. Wang and Azealia have

shows and videos, it means that Alexander Wang gets

teamed up on many occasions. (Schneier, 2012) Both

some of there kudos. While they in turn get some of

being from the edgier areas of New York, both being

his, making for mutual benefit. (Seagal, 2012)

young and fresh and both being seen as

fig. 33


The campaigns for other alexander Wang collections other then “T” also feature musicians within them but in a slightly different way. For example his Fall 2012 Men’s ready to wear collection video was a short film located in Beijing featuring rapper A$AP Rocky, DJ, Diplo and actor Penn Badgley. A voice over has the three men talking about there views and philosophies toward there work and lives. They mention things such as not wanting a repetitive career and trying to not care what other people thing as how they feel there is always room for improvement saying to stay true to your self and taking failures in your stride.(Schneier,2012) These inspirational messages do not specifically talk about their

fig. 34


particular line of work so their philosophies can very easily sound as if they are relevant to alexander Wang and it likely he did this for that purpose. Not only are they things that can relate to him but they could also be taken to relate to many of the audience. Wang was very clever to choose these three men to represent his menswear, not only are they all un deniably extremely cool and well dressed but they all different styles which shows the diversity of the collection,(Nelson, 2011) as its supported by an edgy hip-hop rapper, a cool casual DJ and adapper looking actor. Again by using people whom in them selves are a similar style of brand to alexander Wang it allows them all to rub off on each other helping to promote everyone involved.


Conclusion After this research it so interesting to see how although aesthetically the brands may appear similar; they both use similar block sans serif fonts; they both use a very black and white orientated colour scheme for their adverts they both aim towards a young target market, the influences behind the brands are fairly different, one is hugely influenced by grunge the other disco sports wear. But the era is all the same. Both these influences come back to the 80s.


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Richardson, K. (2011). Fashion Week goes live online. Available: Last accessed 18th January 2013. Riggaini, G. (2012). The Grunge Movement. Available: Last accessed 18th January 2013. SaeNgian, K. (2008). Fashion and music from the ‘80s thread their way back into popular culture . Available: Last accessed 16th January 2013. Schneier, M. (2012). Exclusive: A$AP Rocky And Friends For Alexander Wang. Available: com/stylefile/2012/09/exclusive-aap-rocky-and-friends-for-alexander-wang/. Last accessed 19th January 2013. Schneier, M. (2012). Exclusive: Azealia Banks For Alexander Wang.Available: Last accessed 19th January 2013. Seagal, E. (2012). ONLINE SHOP OUR DESIGNERS EDITORIAL NEWS COMMUNITY MUSIC AND FASHION. Available: Last accessed 19th January 2013. Swedberg , C. (2012). American Apparel Adopting RFID at Every Store.Available: http://www.rfidjournal. com/article/view/9202. Last accessed 12th January 2013 Sweney, M. (2012). News Media Advertising Standards Authority American Apparel’s ‘voyeuristic’ magazine ad banned. Available: Last accessed 17th January 2013. Tadas. (2011). Alexander Wang Launches In-Store iPad App. Available: Last accessed 18th January 2013. Tomkins, A. (2010). Underwear As Outerwear; The New Trend.Available: Last accessed 16th January 2013. Tucknott, T. (2011). American Apparel Brings Back 80s Hair Ties.Available: trends/funky-scrunchies-american-apparel-fashion. Last accessed 16th January 2013. Voguepedia (2009). ALEXANDER WANG. Available: Last accessed 18th January 2013. Warburton, S. (2012). Alexander Wang teams up with Azealia Banks for T. Available: http://fashion.telegraph. Last accessed 19th January 2013. Wright, M. (2010). American Apparel: How To Create Successful Social Media Campaigns. Available: http:// Last accessed 12th January 2013. You, M. (2007). Alexander Wang . Available: Last accessed 18th January 2013.




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