AMERICAN Apparel has been criticised by the advertising watchdog for an advert which "appeared to sexualise a child".
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld two complaints about the advert, which appeared on the back cover of Vice Magazine.
It pictured a girl sitting on an office chair wearing a jumper, knickers and knee-length socks. She was posed with her legs up on the chair and her knickers were visible.
The latest ruling comes a week after the clothing brand fell foul of the ASA with campaigns featuring "gratuitous" images and the sexualisation of models who appeared to be under 16. American Apparel ran into similar issues with campaigns in 2009 and earlier this year.
The people who complained about the advert on the back of Vice Magazine objected that it was offensive and irresponsible.
American Apparel denied that, saying the model featured was over 18 and was wearing products that were meant for adult consumers. They said they placed the ad in Vice Magazine, a publication written for adults, and the model wore clothes which were available for sale in their stores and online, in this case underwear and a sweater.
Vice Magazine also did not believe the advert was offensive or irresponsible. They said it featured a woman wearing socks, underwear and a top and there was nothing to suggest anything overtly sexual or inappropriate was being portrayed. They also pointed out it contained no nudity. American Apparel has since confirmed to them that the model was over 18.
The ASA said the model pictured appeared to be young and potentially under the age of 16.
It said: "Whilst we acknowledged the image did not contain any explicit nudity, we considered that the amateur style of the photo, the posing of the model with her legs up on an office style chair with her knickers showing and the unsmiling expression on the model's face meant the photo would be interpreted as having sexual undertones and a voyeuristic quality.
"We concluded the ad inappropriately sexualised a model who appeared to be a child and was therefore irresponsible.
"We had not seen demographic data for Vice Magazine but understood it was intended for an adult audience. However, we concluded that because it appeared to sexualise a child the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence in a magazine that was untargeted and freely available.
"The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told American Apparel not to depict any model as inappropriately sexualised who could, through their appearance or styling, appear to be a child."
A spokesman for American Apparel said: "It's unfortunate that the ASA has made this ruling as our models are clearly of age and were featured in Vice Magazine, a publication clearly intended for mature, fashion forward audiences.
"Obviously we'll abide by this ruling as we have in the past with similar ASA decisions, but American Apparel will not be altering our classic advertising aesthetic which is internationally recognised for its artistic and social values."