You’d expect fashion companies to be fashionable in all facets of their company, right? Well, some brands struggle to use tasteful judgment when it comes to their public relations choices, whether it’s using racist images or insensitive social media. In recent years a few fashion empires have taken real hits to their brand, sales and social media following by committing some of these crimes of fashion. Read on to learn what not to do.
Dolce & Gabbana is known for making princess-worthy dresses and designing high fashion pieces inspired by the designers’ European roots. Despite their posh and classy reputation, Dolce & Gabbana made quite the scandal when releasing a “slave sandal” from their new collection.
The “slave sandal” title on the website was accompanied by “The spring-summer 2016 collection is a declaration of love to Italy, told through unique clothing and accessories on an imaginary journey through the wonders of this country.”
Without immediately seeing the context of the designer’s intent, however, this sandal description is downright offensive.
“While I am willing to make every effort to put things in the context in which a designer grew up,” said fashion critic Robin Givhan, “I also think that this is a global industry and it is a designer’s responsibility to know the broader context.”
In response to the backlash Dolce & Gabbana received, they renamed the $2,395 footwear “decorative flat sandals.” PR Daily contributor Kevin Allen criticizes the company for neglecting to issue a public apology immediately. Perhaps a public apology explaining the story of the shoe, as well as announcing they would rename the shoe, would have been a better move for the brand.
American Apparel also committed a rather unfashionable mistake. Typically the brand is under scrutiny for its inappropriate advertising, but this time it went too far by using a natural disaster to promote a sale.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy was making her mark on the East Coast. American Apparel decided it would be a good idea to send out an email to East Coast customers, giving 20 percent off “in case you’re bored during the storm.” All the customers had to do was fill in the discount code “SANDYSALE.”
Bloggers and Twitter users immediately criticized the company. American Apparel did issue a sincere apology saying their intentions were good. Do you think the email blast would have been more accepted had they phrased the email a little more sensitively?
A third fashion scandal that could easily have been avoided is a shirt sold by Urban Outfitters. The striped shirt includes a pink upside down triangle on the right pocket area. The shirt is a similar design to what was worn by homosexual prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
“Urban Outfitters president Richard Hayne said he is concerned by the ‘insensitive design and the company’s periodic use of products within the realm of Holocaust imagery,’” says a report by International Business Times.
This isn’t the first time Urban Outfitters has sold offensive clothing. Perhaps they sell these clothes in order to gain attention for their brand?
Regardless, a company should think twice before exploiting a historical tragedy in order to get attention.
These are just a few examples of unfashionable mistakes made in the fashion industry. While it’s unrealistic to expect companies to behave perfectly, it seems many of these mistake could be avoided with a few PR strategies.
Check out my next post for some recommendations on how to stay fashionable in any industry.
Haley Tyler is public relations major from Colorado who works as an assistant editor at Osmond Marketing. When she’s not drooling over Vogue articles or painting, you can find her in the mountains or reading a Dan Brown novel.