By: KELLY GOOD
Retail giant Urban Outfitters has come under fire yet again for attempting to sell another controversially designed T-shirt. The company pulled a crop-top with the word “depression” printed on it from their online store on Jan. 5 after receiving complaints from customers.
This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has received criticism for selling clothing featuring designs deemed inappropriate, offensive, and politically incorrect. In 2010, the company received similar backlash for selling shirts with the words “Eat Less” printed on them. The shirt caused a public uproar, suggesting the shirt promoted eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. It also caught the attention of actress Sophia Bush, who then formed a boycott campaign against Urban Outfitters.
Other controversial designs include the “Irish I were drunk” and “Ghettopoly” shirts, as well as a technical error in which one of the colour options for a plain T-shirt appeared on the company’s website as “Obama/Black.”
Considering this latest incident happened long after the company’s first offense of a similar nature, one would think they would have learned by now – or at least considered hiring someone new to make these decisions.
Queen’s University student, Vivian Cho, says, “I understand not every product Urban Outfitters sells is offensive, but I honestly believe it is important to look at not only the clothing, but the company behind the clothing.”
Urban Outfitters serves as a hub to sell other retail brands of similar styles along with their own line of clothing. The T-shirt in question is actually from a brand called DEPRESSION based out of eastern Asia.
According to the brand’s bio on their website, the DEPRESSION brand “represents breaking from boredom, making a statement and standing out, and aims to meet the needs, occasions and aspirations of the creative professional.”
The bio goes on to boast about the company’s popularity in the high-fashion scene in many parts of eastern Asia, appearing in Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, and even making its way over to Hollywood in recent years.
Although fashion and clothing can be a means of creative self-expression, DEPRESSION fails to send this message across through their very questionable mission statement. Even the names of their collections – Dysfunction, Plastic Surgery, Dysmorphia, and Birth Defects – raise a few flags.
A mental or physical illness is not a fashion statement. By emblazoning it across a T-shirt, it trivializes a harsh reality that approximately 20 per cent of all Canadians experience in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. This does not include the friends and family members who are also indirectly affected by it.
While Urban Outfitters did the right thing by removing the shirt from their website, it should not have been there in the first place.
Cho adds more food for thought: “If we keep letting offences like this slide, what’s to happen if such insults escalate? Will we accept such products as a norm?”