The clothing manufacturer American Apparel is denying responsibility for a casting call email that asked for "Real models. Not Instagram hoes or thots," msnbc has learned.
"Company is going through a rebranding image so will be shooting models moving forward. Real models. Not Instagram hoes or thots," the original message read. "Thots" is a slang term for "hoes," and the posting led models to speak out against the retailer, which has now stated the message was sent by a casting agency without its permission. The text provided information for a casting call on March 18 at a warehouse in Alameda, California.
PhotoGenics, a Los Angeles-based modeling and fashion agency, allegedly sent the email. Cynthia Erland, senior vice president of marketing for American Apparel, told msnbc the email came as a surprise to her company.
"We were not aware of the email PhotoGenics planned to send, and want to reiterate that its content does not reflect our core values, nor did I communicate that we are rebranding the company. We plan to maintain the DNA of the brand," she wrote in an email to msnbc on Friday.
PhotoGenics did not respond to msnbc's requests for comment.
"American Apparel did not hire PhotoGenics, and only called him as any apparel company calls an agency for a casting call. He was not hired or under any contract with American Apparel," Erland added.
On Tuesday, American Apparel posted a photograph and caption to Facebook, seemingly addressing the issue: "This is American Apparel, always has been and always will be. We love all of our models, all shapes and sizes. #welovediversity #weloveyouall!"
But several models for the apparel company took to their social media accounts this week to call out the company for the language used in the email. News reports also have detailed the criticism against the retailer.
"It's just completely false that American Apparel is only using professional models, and we have had and continue to have public casting calls on our calendar. We continue to look for diverse models of all sizes and backgrounds that look great in our clothes, and these open casting calls play a key role. Suggestions to the contrary are the result of a deeply offensive email written by an employee of a casting agency, PhotoGenics, with which American Apparel will no longer be working," Erland said in a statement sent to msnbc on Thursday.
American Apparel, a Los-Angeles based clothing manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, has been called out in the past for its controversial advertisements. Most recently, the company air-brushed nipples in online advertisements for lingerie.
American Apparel ousted its founder and now-former CEO Dov Charney last December amid allegations that he acted inappropriately toward his employees. Charney has been facing lawsuits and accusations of sexual harassment for years. Paula Schneider replaced Charney as CEO in January.
The brand has been a leader against sweatshops, demonstrating that a business can make and sell clothing profitably in the United States. It has backed immigration reform and marriage equality, and called for global minimum wage for garment workers.
Barbara Serreira, of New York City, said she previously modeled for American Apparel until she left her job with the company last October. She said the retailer typically hired "girls of all shapes and sizes" — not typical model types.
Serreira said some of her friends still employed at the company haven't been called in to model as frequently as in the past.
"I was really pumped that there was a store that didn’t really care about how flat your stomach is or how thin you are," she told msnbc. "It felt natural to me."