Friday, 15 May 2015




Iris Alonzo on the controversial advertisement's mission.

The campaign will appear in both US and UK Vice next month.
The campaign will appear in both US and UK Vice next month.
Like many before it, struggling retailer American Apparel's latest campaign has stirred plenty of controversy. Set to run in the UK and U.S. editions ofVice next month, the ad depicts Maks -- a merchandiser who has worked at the vertically integrated company since 2010 -- topless, with the words "Made in Bangladesh" printed in Helvetica across her chest. (A hint of nipple is strategically peeking out from under the "in".)
Maks is a former Muslim who was born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, but she has lived in southern California since the age of four. In a few wordy paragraphs below the photo, American Apparel tells Maks's story, and also details the jeans she's wearing, unbuttoned. ("Maks was photographed in the High Waist Jean, a garment manufactured by 23 skilled workers in Downtown Los Angeles, all of whom are paid a fair wage and have access to basic benefits such as healthcare," it says.)
Unsurprisingly, the web had mixed feelings about Maks, with one publication calling the ad "bizarre" and another deeming it "pretty cool." The most thoughtful commentary, however, came from Fashionista contributor Tanwi Nandini Islam on "Maks is as Made in America as American Apparel. Her unabashed nudity is a tacit reminder—this is what American Apparel looks like. This is what our fantasy of what Made in Bangladesh looks like. Not a poor, underpaid, overworked young woman making you a $5 shirt for 30 cents an hour," said Islam, who was born in Bangladesh and actually wrote the rebuttal while on a month-long visit to the country. "This ad has little to do with the woman in front of us, and everything to do with the Bangladeshi female garment worker who remains invisible."
Islam's point should be considered seriously, but I can't help but wondering if she is taking American Apparel to task for something it shouldn't be criticized for, at least not under these circumstances. This is, after all, an advertisement for clothing. (Maks is half naked, but those jeans do look great.) And while American Apparel obviously wants to point out that, as a company, it pays its employees fairly -- especially when compared to factories in Bangladesh -- an advertisement might not be the right avenue to directly attack Bangladesh's garment industry, or even shine a light on the workers who keep it going. I recently emailed back and forth with American Apparel creative director Iris Alonzo about the campaign. While her responses certainly won't diminish Islam's concerns, they do make the advertisement's mission clearer:

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un

A woman in Bangladesh gave birth in a factory restroom after being told she could not leave her job making shoes, the woman, Hamida Akter, survived, but her newborn child was dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Officials in Kaliakair Upazila, where the factory is located, said Akhter had asked to leave Saturday because she wasn’t feeling well, but the request was denied by her supervisor, identified as Ratan Miah. She was later found, with the newborn, in a factory restroom.

What society have we become? Where profits matter more than human well being and life itself. Are we as Muslims losing our values in the pursuit of others?

Capitalism cares about output and profit and is a vulture of a system and way of life. It strips people bare to think and act differently. We need to reconnect to our roots - Islam and its system and way of life

May Allah (swt) bestow sabr and tranquility on the woman, and may Allah (swt) accept the unborn child into Jannah to be looked after Ibrahim (as).

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