Fashion isn’t without its share of controversies. Just halfway through 2018, and we’ve already witnessed the industry face backlash for designs that appear to be questionable at best (and offensive at worst). While some brands and retailers have apologized for their one-time sartorial blunders, others happen to be repeat offenders — with accusations spanning from cultural appropriation to blatant insensitivity. Here, five fashion products that have made headlines for their ambiguous messages.
1. H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” Hoodie
In January, the fast-fashion retailer found itself in hot water after posting on its website an image of a black child wearing a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” Brand partner The Weeknd immediately shared the picture on Twitter, announcing that he was cutting ties with H&M, while social media users launched the #BoycottHM hashtag on Twitter, pointing fingers at the Swedish company for sharing a photo that they deemed was racist, insensitive and lacked social awareness.
H&M followed up with an apology: “Our position is simple and unequivocal — we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry…We agree with all the criticism that this has generated — we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.” Both the image and product have been removed, with the latter no longer available for purchase on H&M’s website.
2. Amazon’s “Slavery Gets S*** Done” Merch
It wasn’t long after H&M’s mistake that Amazon was pulled into the spotlight. In late January, the e-tail giant was forced to remove a line of children’s clothing emblazoned with the phrase “Slavery gets s**t done,” following public outcry from customers as well as anti-slavery organizations.
“All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines, and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account,” a spokesperson responded. “The products in question are no longer available.”
Although it was quick to address the fiasco, the company was grilled for its ineffective “offensive products” measure, which many claimed was unable to properly police merchandise from unauthorized and third-party sellers.
3. Zara’s “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” Jacket
Two weeks ago, upon her arrival in border town McAllen, Texas, Melania Trump became the subject of controversy when she wore a military-style jacket that read “I really don’t care. Do u?” before meeting with the displaced migrant children who were separated from their families. The piece, which hailed from Zara’s spring ’16 collection, immediately caused confusion and concern among observers, who couldn’t help but point out the irony of its inconsiderate message with the context of Trump’s humanitarian visit.
In the whirlwind, the first lady’s director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, issued a statement: “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.” Although she ditched the coat before entering the housing facility, Trump’s tone-deaf ensemble continued to make headlines, particularly considering its price point at just $39.
4. Walmart’s “Impeach 45” Merch
Walmart came under fire this week after customers on its website spotted men’s shirts and baby onesies printed with the words “Impeach 45” — a phrase that called for the impeachment of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.
A campaign under the hashtag #BoycottWalmart left the retail giant with no choice but to take down the contestable merchandise, which appeared to be made by apparel brand Old Glory, which Walmart explained in a statement was a third-party merchant on its e-commerce marketplace.
“These items were sold by third-party sellers on our open marketplace and were not offered directly by Walmart. We’re removing these types of items pending review of our marketplace policies,” a company spokesperson shared on Twitter after user Ryan Fournier — whose bio describes him as chairman of the Students for Trump organization — posted the now-removed content on his feed.
5. Golden Goose’s Beaten-Up Sneakers
Despite detractors labeling the product as “poverty appropriation,” Golden Goose continues to sell pre-distressed footwear and apparel — a style it has featured in its collections for years. The luxury sneaker brand first invited criticism two years ago after a social media post highlighting its $585 Distressed Superstar sneakers went viral.
Many argued that the intentionally destroyed sneakers were insulting to homeless and poor people — an issue that was further amplified by their steep cost and sale at high-end retailers like Barneys New York. (Similar iterations of the shoe are still on the market, including a pair of $495 Superstar sneakers at Bergdorf Goodman.) In 2016, the company explained that the design of its Distressed Superstar sneakers paid tribute to the West Coast’s skateboard culture.