Posted: September 22, 2014, 5:43 p.m.
by Rachel Uniatowski.
When someone gets asked the infamous question “What are you wearing?”, people may think twice about saying Urban Outfitters.
The once reputable brand is making headlines again after it was brought to the consumers’ attention that it was selling a controversial Kent State University sweatshirt. The so-called “vintage,” faded-red sweatshirt being sold with the Kent State seal in the middle had what appeared to be red “blood” splatters across the front. The sweatshirt was part of its sun-faded vintage collection.
It didn’t take long to connect the sweatshirt to the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, causing a social media uproar. Screenshots of the sweatshirt went viral, as people took to blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reprimand the brand and its tasteless apparel. The public outcry on social media aided the reaction from customers and caused major damage to the brand’s reputation. Urban Outfitters’ response to the backlash was to label the sweatshirt as “sold out,” instead of removing it completely. To add insult to injury, Urban Outfitters simply sent out an apology via Twitter.
Scandal isn’t new to the often-criticized brand. It has offended its consumers and had to pull a controversial item off its website numerous times. In 2010, Urban Outfitters was condemned when it sold a T-shirt that said “Eat Less” across the front. Many people accused Urban of condoning eating disorders. The brand caused quite the controversy that year when it also sold a shirt with the color choices of white/charcoal and Obama/black.
So why hasn’t Urban Outfitters learned its lesson? This situation begs the question: “Is all publicity good publicity?” Although its sales have shown a decline and much of its attention is negative, Urban Outfitters’ name is constantly in the spotlight. Urban Outfitters has turned upsetting the public into a continuous pattern that has become synonymous with the brand. We can only ask another pressing question: How low is the supposed “trendsetting brand” willing to go to keep its name in the news?