American Apparel has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for using overtly sexual imagery to market its back-to-school range.

Images of girls wearing skirts bending over to reveal their buttocks were featured on the retailer’s UK website and Instagram page.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned the ads after receiving complaints that they were offensive and inappropriate for a skirt advertised as school wear.

American Apparel has been warned its future advertising must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society and contain nothing likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

The retailer attempted to defend itself by claiming its approach was “not graphic, explicit or pornographic” and aims to show people “who were natural, not posed and real”.

It added its models were not portrayed in a manner that was “vulnerable, negative or exploitative”.  

The ASA dismissed American Apparel’s arguments and claimed the way the images were shot mean the focus was on the girl’s buttocks and groin rather than the skirt being modelled.

As a result, the ASA concluded the images were gratuitous and objectified women and were consequently sexist and likely to cause widespread offence.

American Apparel has a reputation for garnering publicity by courting controversy and in the past has carried out stunts including placing mannequins with pubic hair in the shop window of a New York store.