Oops!… Urban Did It Again

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Urban Outfitters has made yet another controversial retail product. Many people find the clothing retailer’s new tapestry (top left image) to be extremely offensive. The fabric is similar to the blue and white striped uniforms that prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps, and the pink triangles resemble the triangles worn on the uniforms of gay prisoners. On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an anti-Semitism organization, asked Urban Outfitters to pull the tapestry from its website. And it did. You can no longer find the tapestry for sale online.

This isn’t the first time Urban Outfitters has offended people with its merchandise. The clothing store has a history of selling controversial products with insensitive designs. You think they would have learned from their previous mistakes. But no.

More excuses for parents across America to refuse to buy Urban’s overpriced clothing for their children:

Item: Kent State sweatshirt (top center image)

Controversy: In May 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired on a group of anti-war protestors, killing four and injuring 9 unarmed students on Kent State University’s campus. The overpriced “vintage” sweatshirt is far from fashionable as splatters of red on it resemble blood stains. The University commented on the sweatshirt design saying that it was “beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” Really, Urban? Really?!? The company later apologized and said that the stains on the shirt were not intentionally meant to look like blood.

Item: T-shirt with a patch resembling the Star of David (top right image)

Controversy: The ADL also called out Urban Outfitters for selling this item. The badge resembled those worn by prisoners during the Holocaust. The company said that they put the wrong image up on the its site—they had ultimately decided not to include the star patch—and apologized to anyone they may have offended.

Item: T-shirt with the words “Eat Less”

Controversy: Is Urban encouraging eating disorders? Or discouraging? I don’t get it.

Item: T-shit with the word “Depression”

Controversy: Yet another article of clothing regarding mental health issues…apparently Urban bought the shirt from a Japanese clothing line called Depression. But it didn’t take long for the store to remove these t-shirts from its shelves.

See the complete list here.

Each of these clothing related controversies beg the questions: Were these designs premeditated or simply coincidences? Were they meant as publicity stunts? Did anyone stop to say, “Wait, this isn’t appropriate. I think some people may find this offensive”?

There is a fine line between trendy/edgy and totally inappropriate. And Urban has crossed it too many times. Either they’re not thinking about what they’re selling before they put it on the market, or they are following a “no publicity is bad publicity” strategy. Either way, this sounds like a PR issue waiting to happen. Urban might be successful in generating buzz and getting people to visit their website with their controversial merchandise (I mean, the Kent State sweatshirt actually sold out at $129 each). But do the ends justify the means? I hardly think it’s worth the extra *clicks.* Selling items that elicit people’s worst memories and illnesses is poor taste in advertising. But judging by the amount of times Urban has failed to learn its lesson, I think it is going to continue doing this—whether or not it is on accident.


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