In the world of fashion, American Apparel is an anomaly. Founded in 1989 by Dov Charney as a bootstrap operation (selling printed t-shirts out of his dorm room), the company rapidly grew into the largest (if not only) major U.S. apparel label with domestic operations. The company is known for taking on major social issues of the day (immigration, labor standards and marriage equality are among the more prominent) with a fervor worthy of evangelism – on the progressive side of the aisle. Unlike the majority of Corporate America, American Apparel occupies a unique niche in the culture wars.
What is causing all the wailing and gnashing of teeth? The appearance of nipples and pubic hair in AA’s lingerie photos, that’s what. Again, American Apparel is an anomaly – until recently, it was the only mainstream advertiser that allowed either nipples or pubic hair (or both, in AA’s case) in print media. A quick scan of contemporary lingerie advertising reveals absolutely nothing – not a nipple nor a stray pubic hair is to be found anywhere.
The wonderful Tiffany Helms is our model here. Early in her career, she followed the hairless trend; lately she has decided to differentiate herself as a “totally natural” model – she doesn’t shave at all. For this series, I selected two styles of bottoms – a boyshort and a mid-rise thong, and two bra styles – a demi-cup underwire and a full coverage bralette. These styles were selected especially because they are sheer.
We used three presentation styles. The first is a fairly standard catalog / lookbook style which shows that the inclusion of nipples and pubic hair can contribute to the way the lingerie looks in real life (assuming the customer has chosen not to shave), or it can be hidden and still show the style of the garment.
The second is what the industry terms “line sheet” illustrations. These are detailed photographs that show the construction of the garment in close-up detail. Here, the model’s “natural bits” are a prominent part of how the lingerie will look in the real world. With line sheet illustrations, the model is of secondary importance to the display of the garment. In fact, many line sheet photos are made with mannequins. I prefer to use real models; in my opinion, this technique does a better job of rendering how it will drape on the customer.
The third presentation is more editorial in nature. Tiffany is in her element here, creating artistic compositions in which the lingerie plays a supporting role. She has a very limber body, which she uses to great advantage in showing how comfortable she can be while moving around in extreme positions, even while wearing lingerie. Comfort, after all, is a key selling point. That, and the ability of the fashion to make the customer feel sexy.
Article author & photography: Allen Moore
Model: Tiffany Helms
Hair, makeup & wardrobe styling: Caroline Langdon
Wardrobe: American Apparel
Location: AIMStudios of Virginia, LLC
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