While political correctness often goes overboard, there are still a handful of issues that are universally accepted and understood to be topics of great sensitivity that should be handled with a certain level of respect. Genocide is generally one of those topics.
Once again Urban Outfitters missed the class on sensible decision making and released a tapestry with a grey and white striped pattern and a upside down pink triangle. A fabric that looks strikingly similar to the uniforms worn by concentration camp prisoners with a badge that is clearly stylized on one that homosexual male prisoners were forced to wear to identify themselves.
While the gay community has reclaimed the upside triangle as a sign of pride the use of it in this context with striped pattern is clearly reminiscent of the atrocities of the Holocaust. It doesn’t take a historian, gay activist or former concentration camp survivor to look at this item and instantly see this obvious imagery it is meant to provoke. Any average person with any knowledge of what has happened in our past would be instantly struck by how familiar and inappropriate this print is. How this product made it through Urban Outfitters development process and into the retail chain is a mystery. It is in-explainable how in their entire operation no one noticed or mentioned the similarity of this item to concentration camp uniforms.
This isn’t Urban Outfitters first accidental step in the wrong direction. Last fall they printed a sweatshirt with a blood splattered pattern in homage to the tragic shooting that occurred at Kent State. Before that there is a lengthy list of other groups that have been targeted with offensive imagery. This seems to be Urban Outfitters way of staying in the press and developing brand awareness. Yes controversy does get your name out there but there is a significant difference between controversy and being just plain offensive.
It doesn’t take more a small dose of common sense to know that invoking imagery of the Holocaust to either promote sales or promote controversy to improve sales is one of those instances where the uncrossable line has been crossed. Yes comedians often poke fun at and use humor in discussing some of our societies darkest moments and actions but those are professionals in a very specific environment using humor as a means of social commentary and they have learned that even they need to tread carefully when touching upon such sensitive topics. Most fail miserably and pay the price for it. In the fashion industry there is no place for this level of insensitivity.
Maybe its time that Urban Outfitters customers sent a clear message to the company about what they deem acceptable. Perhaps if every loyal Urban Outfitters customer boycotted the store for just one quarter, the drop in sales would convince their leadership that a different approach in necessary. We’re not saying that you should never shop there again. If its your style and fit and you love their other products then great, continue to be a customer but use your voice to tell them when they are on the wrong path and need to change.
To read another take on the topic check out Lauren Tuck’s article at Yahoo Style: https://www.yahoo.com/style/urban-outfitters-selling-tapestry-eerily-110637515003.html