Is this American Apparel ad racist?

American Apparel is no stranger to the use of shock tactics, but their latest ‘Made in Bangladesh’ campaign has been labeled a new type of part-racist, part-sexist marketing scandal.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

The clothing brand’s advertisement depicts the partially naked Bangladeshi-American Mak, a merchandiser for American Apparel, with the words “Made in Bangladesh” across her chest.

The message portrayed by the advertisement is morally conflicting, as is alluding to the company’s “sweat-shop free” status whilst employing a topless Bangladeshi-American woman as the visual selling-point of the campaign.

Online reactions signal confusion between the seemingly ethical intentions of the brand in terms of their fair labor practices, contrasted by the confronting profile on Mak, a former model, who is completely removed from the reality of exploited Bangladeshi garment workers. 

“I’m torn – is the sexual and cultural exploitation occurring in this ad excusable if it’s for a good cause?” Wrote Daily Life’s Madelin Newman.

Responses on social media drew similar conclusions, “It's a shame to see such an ethically sound company objectifying women like this,” said Twitter user.

The advertisement is likely to draw criticism from traditional Muslim audiences in the largely Islamic Bangladesh.

But the debate has been fueled on both sides, with many social media responses in favour of the advertisement.

“HEY!!! SEX SELLS!! Why change,” commented an online user in response to a Mail Online article.

The image appears in US and Canadian editions of Vice Magazine.

American Apparel is well-accustomed to the use of shock tactics, with their pubic-hair adorned mannequins from earlier this year and the use of scantily clad models in much of their advertising.