Déjà Vu: Yet Another Controversy for Urban Outfitters

Article by Emma Christiantelli | esPResso Staff Writer


Image courtesy of Casey Hugelfink/Flickr

Urban Outfitters is once again under fire for placing a highly controversial product on its shelves. Earlier this month, Urban Outfitters released a new tapestry with a design of gray and white stripes embellished with small pink triangles. The pattern bears distinct similarities to the uniforms that homosexual Holocaust victims were forced to wear while imprisoned by the Nazis.

In a press release from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director and a Holocaust survivor, stated that the tapestry design was “eerily reminiscent of clothing forced upon the victims of the Holocaust” and urged the company to discontinue the sale of the distasteful product immediately. Foxman also said in his statement that the tapestry was “deeply offensive” and argued that it must “not be mainstreamed into popular culture.”

It should be noted that the LGBTQ community reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol for gay rights in the 1970s. Thus, if the tapestry was a conscious decision made by the retailer, it is possible that Urban Outfitters meant only to support the community. However, soon after the criticism surfaced the tapestry was nowhere to be found on the company’s website.

As expected, Urban Outfitters received numerous complaints about the controversial product, particularly through its social media platforms. As of the writing of this article the retailer had yet to respond to its outraged customers or release any form of acknowledgement regarding the controversy which could hurt its reputation.

Having déjà vu? That’s because Urban Outfitters is certainly no stranger to controversy. In 2014, the retailer released a faux-bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt in its “Vintage Finds” collection. The sweatshirt was widely perceived as a distasteful reference to the Kent State massacre of the 1970s in which four unarmed students were shot and killed. In 2012, the ADL criticized the retailer for selling a yellow shirt adorned with a six-pointed star badge that was comparable to the Star of David patch that imprisoned Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. In 2010, the retailer sold a women’s V-neck shirt bearing the phrase “Eat Less” in large letters on the front.

Urban Outfitters has a history of controversial products. Whether the tapestry was intentional or a regrettable coincidence remains unclear. It’s safe to say, however, that Urban Outfitters needs to improve its response strategies.


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