Debate in Sweden has been raging this week after a blogger drew attention to American Apparel’s marketing techniques.
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While men on the company’s website are predominantly shown fully clothed and standing in modest poses, women are often shown in various states of undress and striking sexually suggestive poses, sparking accusations that American Apparel’s approach is sexist.
Complaints have flooded into the country’s advertising watchdog, and on Wednesday, a Swedish fashion retailer entered the fray, opting to use provocative images of a trouserless man to sell a unisex coat.
“We thought it was sick that American Apparel time and again gets away with such sexist advertising,” Michaela Forni, a Swedish fashion blogger who manages the product range for online retailer byPM.se, told The Local.
After discussing the matter internally, Forni and her colleagues at byPM decided to express their feelings by putting a man in a pose similar to how some of the women are portrayed on American Apparel’s site.
“We wanted to do the exact same thing they did, but with the opposite gender,” Forni explained.
“On our site, it’s the man who has his bare ass in the air and is seen in a sexually seductive pose.”
Forni admitted that seeing a man’s behind as he poses on all fours often strikes people as “gross”.
“People say, ‘Ew, you can’t have those images.’ But when women are portrayed similarly, no one reacts,” she said.
The model featured in the byPM.se images is none other than the company’s founder and part owner, Petter Lindqvist.
“We wanted to do something of our own and reverse gender roles to see what happens when a guy is in the same position,” Lindqvist told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
“We wanted to open people’s eyes by turning things on their head. People don’t think it’s okay to see a naked man in the same way.”
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While the sexy male pictures are only used on one product, Forni said the company is “definitely open” to using similar pictures to market other products in the future.
“There aren’t any concrete plans yet,” she said.
“As long as the product is selling, the pictures will remain up. Who knows, maybe it will sell out faster now.”
Forni said she hoped byPM.se’s campaign to raise awareness of gender inequality in fashion marketing will get American Apparel to take notice.
“We hope they take notice and try to have more gender balance in their images,” she said
In a statement to Aftonbladet, American Apparel spokesman Ryan Holiday said he regretted that the company’s marketing had left Swedes upset, attributing it to a misunderstanding.
“Unfortunately, some bloggers have mixed up artistic photography with product photography,” he said.
“We don’t think there is anything in these pictures that deviates from the norm and we think they show our clothes and the models in an attractive way and aren’t discriminating in the least.”