UK ASA: Fashion Retailer's Models Are Not Too Youthful

An advert in Time Out magazine for American Apparel (UK) Ltd showed a girl wearing white underwear and over-the-knee grey socks, standing on her tiptoes, arching her back and resting her arms against a wall. Her face was turned to the camera and text stated "Lingerie". Readers complained that the model looked like a child and that the advert was offensive and irresponsible because the young-looking girl was wearing underwear and standing in a provocative pose. This is not the first time American Apparel have been criticised for using young-looking models in provocative poses (see the UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), previous adjudication here). Even so, the ASA decided not to uphold the complaints on this occasion. The ASA noted that the model was 18 at the time the photograph was taken and, unlike the previous banned advert, the pose was not unduly provocative. Further, the ASA considered that readers were unlikely to infer from the clothing that the model was a child. The ASA takes a firm line when it comes to adverts that appear to sexualize children. But, in this case, American Apparel seem to have taken heed of the previous ASA decision. For example, this time the ASA decided that the model, though young-looking, was not sufficiently young-looking to cause concern. Similarly the model's pose was considered to be representative of the stylized postures familiar in the fashion industry, whilst the company's banned advert had shown a child-like model progressively stripping off her clothes in a way that the ASA considered to be sexualizing a child and therefore inappropriate. These differences arguably kept American Apparel on the right side of the decency mark on this occasion. Moral: Learn from your mistakes. – Richard Dickinson and Jake Marshall

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