There’s something curious about American Apparel’s latest model. Buttercup, 26, lives in Costa Rica and enjoys a diet of goat’s milk and hibiscus leaves, she’s covered in not so fine a fuzz and oh yes, she’s a sloth. That’s right folks, the brand famed for its sleaze mongering tactics on both advertising boards and allegedly as part of its executive board has shown itself committed to reforming its image, and the images it purveys, by recruiting Buttercup, a rescue-sloth, to spearhead one of its forthcoming advertising campaigns. Whilst in the past the brand has been far from averse to making the pubic public in a number of its in-store and media campaigns, as well as on its (in)famous ‘Period Power’ t-shirt by artist Petra Collins, its flagrant sexualisation of women’s bodies to peddle its wares, not to mention the company’s frequent exploitation of the barely legal-looking body, has frequently seen it on the wrong side of the Advertising Standards Agency and in a highly precarious position regarding any body positive gestures it might be claiming to make. Indeed as recently as last month the company had an ‘irresponsible’ advertisement banned because of the ‘the youthful appearance of the model’ which ‘could be seen to sexualise a child […] and was likely to cause serious offence’.
Buttercup, then, suggests a dramatic change in direction and ethos and one can’t help but read the residue of an apology – or at the very least a hint of a corporate mea culpa – in her playful, languid, slovenly poses. Buttercup’s reclining, for me anyway, shares too stark a similarity with her human predecessor to be pure accident. Change though has been a long time coming and it’s not likely to happen overnight as the ASA’s recent ruling demonstrates, especially given that American Apparel’s sleazy image is as much a part of the brand as its ‘basics’. Hopefully though a makeover of legitimate respect-for-women’s-body’s proportions will figure as a fundamental part of American Apparel’s future and let’s hope that it’s both sustainable and that it doesn’t happen at a sloth’s pace.