As a woman who appreciates artistic expression through fashion, I am deeply dismayed by the length a company that I’ve shopped at many times has gone to in order to maintain its edgy and millennialist image.
After making the news multiple times for outrageously offensive products and twisted messages, Urban Outfitters doesn’t stop producing headlines like these:
- “Why I’m Breaking Up with Urban Outfitters”
- “Urban Outfitters Can’t Be Respected After Kent State Sweatshirt Release”
- “Black Leaders Outraged at ‘Ghettopoly’ Game at Urban Outfitters”
- “Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters over Goods”
What started out as a company from Urban Outfitters Inc., known for hip style and quirky fashion statements, has now become the cause of much despair for a number of different groups, including some of the company’s most loyal customers. Urban Outfitters is not the company that has made a mistake, received backlash and apologized for it without any intention of making the same mistake again. This is a company that thrives off of the well-known phrase, “any publicity is good publicity.” But I must beg the question, is it really? Is offending an entire race to make a sale a smart business strategy? Is making light of social issues such as eating disorders, depression and drug abuse a good way to brand your company?
A naive business mistake is one thing, but creating an image based on negative shock factor can destroy a company’s reputation. History matters to consumers and making the same apology over and over will eventually be thought of as insincere.
Potter Stewart once said, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” A company that consistently acts without a moral compass will turn people off and will eventually destroy themselves from the inside out. When producing a product, making a statement or creating a brand that has the potential to offend an audience, one must ask if ethics are being compromised for shock value? If they are, it is a good chance the company could be heading into a media mess that will take weeks, months or years to clean up.
I don’t know the future of Urban Outfitters as a whole, and I can only speak on my behalf; but as a woman, a wife, a sister, a friend, a caretaker, a person of faith and a consumer, I want to invest my money in companies that respect and uphold the same standards that I try to. Mistakes are natural and forgiveness is worthwhile, but there comes a point where a blood-stained apology is just not enough.