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Skims wants to bring back American Apparel's aesthetic

Kim Kardashian's brand draws from the sexy and provocative imagery that made AA iconic

Skims wants to bring back American Apparel's aesthetic Kim Kardashian's brand draws from the sexy and provocative imagery that made AA iconic
Mugler powered by Wolford
Mugler powered by Wolford
Jacquemus La Montagne
Jacquemus La Montagne
Gucci FW 1996
Gucci SS 2003
Gucci FW 1999
Bottega Veneta FW19 by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS2O by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy Laguna Beach Eau de Toilette x Comme des Garçons Parfums by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS19 by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS19 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Gucci FW 1996
Gucci FW 1996
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Skims

To launch its new collection of cotton basics, Skims, the shapewear brand founded by Kim Kardashian (which is reportedly about to collaborate with Fendi), has chosen Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox as its models. The images, with their saturated colors and minimal setting, portray the two friends on a neutral background, their toned and shiny bodies engaged in plastic poses, their provocative gaze turned towards the lens. In other images, it's Megan Fox who feeds Kardashian cherries, while in another there's only an apple between their mouths. Food seems to be a sort of leitmotif for Skims, which uses it as a scenic element to make simple pajamas look provocative - when worn while enjoying a plate of waffles, maple syrup, whipped cream, or a melted ice cream cone. It's precisely this revisited, elevated, glamorized, and kinky everyday life that brings Skims' visual communication so close to the advertising campaigns that made American Apparel and by extension Terry Richardson, who was often the author of those shots, famous. American Apparel had found a unique, high-impact style to tell the story of its aesthetic: the campaigns often consisted of simple, clean, almost documentary-like images, unretouched, photos taken in real houses or on monochrome sets, often portraying ordinary people, the brand's clients, street casting faces, and most of the time the models were photographed in provocative poses, almost pornographic

Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims
Skims

Beyond its product range, which included high quality Made in the USA basics, denim, underwear, and accessories, American Apparel, the brand founded in Los Angeles in the late 1980s by Dov Charney, had built its identity on provocative, transgressive images bordering on voyeurism, shots of highly sexualized female bodies that delivered explicit messages, either through the models' poses or through double meaning taglines printed in Helvetica, the same font that decorated the brand's shopping bags. AA's legacy - which influenced the industry for years - then crumbled very quickly due to Dov's reckless corporate management and sexual harassment allegations that sucked him and Richardson (who for years was hailed by much of the industry) into the whirlpool of cancel culture

That legacy, built on a rebellious attitude, on an idea of a very simple advertising campaign, with an almost home-made flavor, made of polaroids and home backgrounds, has found in Skims a perfect interpreter to adapt this language to the current zeitgeist. Minimal settings, neutral backgrounds, saturated colors, tight shots of the bodies of the protagonists: there are many elements that the famous shots of AA have in common with the latest campaigns of Skims. The brand skilfully plays on the juxtaposition of a collection of lace underwear, but with an austere, almost chaste flavor, and a campaign that takes its cue from childhood, from candy, and from pastel colors, capable of immediately making that product more sexy and transgressive. Abs wet by water and necklines enriched by bouquets of flowers coexist in storytelling that knows when to exaggerate, and to what point. If back then many AA images were considered excessive, and in retrospect problematic, Kim Kardashian seems to have found the key to update them. The ingredients for the transformation are quite simple: female photographers, such as Donna Torpe, author of the shots of Fox and Kardashian, the inclusion of all body shapes in the representation of the brand, and above all a calibrated and not excessive sexualization of those same bodies, and applied to specific products. Although by definition an underwear brand cannot do without undressing a body to present an item, there is a very clear difference in the way Skims photographs a body and the way American Apparel did: the former seems to explicitly address its final consumer, the women for whom those products were designed, while for AA the models' bodies were not a means, but an end, it was their bodies that were sold, it was sex that prevailed over the product

The pictures by Vanessa Beecroft with which Skims was first launched sent an unequivocal message about the type of imagery that the brand aimed at conveying: a universe populated by dozens of women, different and varied in every possible sense, drawing inspiration, not from the aesthetics of Blurred Lines, but looking to Carlota Guerrera to try to elevate everything to an abstraction that makes female bodies three-dimensional characters that transcend their sexuality. AA's imagery was influenced and went on to influence the porn aesthetic, riding the trend of "clean" amateurism for the first time, with an aesthetic, with unprecedented attention to the image. Skims also draws inspiration from that world, but choosing a polite, aestheticized porn, the kind you find today on OnlyFans and sometimes on Instagram. 

Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims
Vanessa Beecroft / Skims

In fact, Skims, like American Apparel, hasn't invented anything but has only given a new interpretation of the encounter between bodies, sex, and fashion that many designers had made their stylistic signature: it goes without saying that it has a lot to do with the Gucci of Tom Ford's era with those advertising campaigns bordering on the pornographic, an attitude similar to the one found today in the campaign of the same brand directed by Alessandro Michele with Måneskin as protagonists. It is the same principle that moves the relaunch of Mugler under the direction of Casey Cadwallader, it is what makes a close-up shot of a Jacquemus sweater immediately viral. In a much more elegant way, most of AA's images come alive today in Tyrone Lebon's shots for Stüssy and Bottega Veneta, provocative, with strong female protagonists, but never tacky, loud, or excessive. 

Gucci FW 1999
Gucci FW 1996
Gucci FW 1996
Gucci FW 1996
Gucci SS 2003
Mugler powered by Wolford
Mugler powered by Wolford
Jacquemus La Montagne
Jacquemus La Montagne
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy SS17 by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS19 by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS19 by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta SS2O by Tyrone Lebon
Bottega Veneta FW19 by Tyrone Lebon
Stüssy Laguna Beach Eau de Toilette x Comme des Garçons Parfums by Tyrone Lebon
In a context like the current one, an American Apparel campaign would have been destroyed on social media within an hour, but on an aesthetic level the American brand has created an imagery, a model of communication so simple yet effective that it remains almost impossible to replicate.