American Apparel (AA) is known for making sweatshop-free clothing in downtown Los Angeles and for risqué, retro-inspired photo shoots. But its controversial billboard du jour doesn’t feature a scantily clad, skin-and-bones model, but filmmaker Woody Allen.
In 2007, the clothing company used a still featuring Allen dressed as a Hasidic Jew from his movie Annie Hall. Also included were the words “American Apparel” and Yiddish that translates to “the holy rebbe.” The ad ran on the company’s two billboards (one in NYC, the other in LA). Allen, who was never contacted about the sign and refuses to endorse products inside the United States, is suing AA for $10 million, calling the billboards “especially egregious and damaging.”
AA issued a statement, saying the billboards shouldn’t have been mistaken for an ad campaign. It clarified: “Although we generally use our two billboards for commercial purposes, we also use them as a vehicle for non-commercial social and political commentary. We had no intention of selling garments through the use of Mr. Allen’s image.” AA representatives said they hope to resolve the problem with Allen amicably.
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