by Stephanie Martoccia
Urban Outfitters is at it again: Production of offensive items is becoming part of its brand image, and the public is not happy.
The newest controversial item released by Urban Outfitters is a tapestry that strikingly resembles Holocaust concentration camp uniforms; it is grey and white stripped with pink triangles. The upside-down pink triangle was used on uniforms worn by gay prisoners at the camps.
This tapestry immediately caught the attention of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that champions the fight against anti-Semitism, and it wrote a letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters asking the company to remove the offensive item from its inventory.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture.”
This is not the first time ADL has had issues with items produced by Urban Outfitters. In 2012, UO released a shirt with a representation of the yellow Star of David, but when ADL confronted Urban Outfitters, the company stated the shirt was never intended for sale.
Why would any company waste time and money to design and produce an item it never intended to sell? Although Urban Outfitters has not released a statement on this item yet, can we assume that their statement will be truthful? Or will it only be a matter of time until ADL is pushed aside and another public is struck with offense?
What does a history of producing offensive products mean for Urban Outfitters’ brand image? The designers at UO are either targeting intellectuals to see if they catch the context of their items or targeting the ignorant who just see the aesthetic of their designs. They are obviously seeking inspiration from historic events, but the line between appropriate and offensive seems to be hazy. We may never know the company’s true intentions because whenever UO is questioned, the spokesperson plays dumb.
It is shocking that Urban Outfitters still has a strong customer base due to its multiple public relations fails. UO needs to be aware that its publics are not just ‘hipsters,’ and its items can’t merely rely on freedom of expression.