Urban Outfitters‘ business model has capitalized on something incredibly hard for a multinational corporation to grasp; uniqueness. Entering an Urban Outfitters store is like walking into a thrift store where everything is organized, available in your size and lacking suspicious stains — oh, and ten times as expensive. With the rise of the hipster generation, Urban Outfitters has been wildly successful, but it has also found itself embroiled in more controversy than the average retailer.
Urban Outfitters’ latest item to cause outrage are grey-and-white striped tapestries featuring a pink upside-down triangle on them. While most know about the infamous yellow stars used to identify Jewish prisoners in Holocaust camps, there was an entire system of different colored markings to classify more specifically why each prisoner had been rounded up — among them red for political prisoners, green for criminals and pink for gays.
Urban Outfitters may be able to claim an ignorant mistake here, but it does seem rather unlikely that their design team would choose such a specific shape and color for a backdrop with such a gory association. The Anti-Defamation League, created in 1913 to fight anti-semitism, is not amused by the situation either way. Holocaust survivor and National Director Abraham Foxman is asking Urban Outfitters to remove the Holocaust-invoking textile immediately.
“Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture. We urge Urban Outfitters to immediately remove the product.”
Urban Outfitters’ current rage-invoking design choice isn’t even its first to be specifically called out by the Anti-Defamation League. In April 2012, Urban Outfitters was verbally reprimanded for the sale of a T-shirt that appeared to have a yellow star of David printed on it. Of course, the Jewish community haven’t been the only targets of the Urban Outfitters’ questionable taste. In September of last year, the company caused an uproar when it sold vintage Kent State University sweatshirts splattered with blood. The shirts were apparently intended to recall students shot to death at a campus protest there in 1970.
Gay issues outside of the Holocaust have also been touchy for the company in the past. Urban Outfitters’ owner Richard Hayne is known for giving large amounts of money to anti-gay Republican candidates. In 2008, a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I Support Same Sex Marriage” was quickly pulled from shelves. While Urban Outfitters blamed negative press for the decision, New York Magazine reported that there was virtually none to be found.
As of Tuesday morning, Bloomberg reported that the gay Holocaust uniform tapestry was still for sale at least one New York Urban Outfitters location. It is retailing for $69.
[Images via Anti-Defamation League and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum]