Anthropologie Responds to Claims That It Used a Code Word for Black Shoppers

Anthropologie has responded to accusations of racial profiling and purportedly using a code word for black customers.

The Philadelphia-based lifestyle brand, which has been called out on social media in recent days regarding alleged discriminatory practices, posted a statement yesterday on Instagram. It wrote that it has “never and will never” have a secret name based on a customer’s race or ethnicity.

“Our company has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling in any form,” the post read. “Employees who do not adhere to this policy are subject to disciplinary action which may include termination.”

On June 1, Anthropologie shared on Instagram a quote by the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who once said that people were “equal in value no matter their color.” However, commenters on the post expressed dissatisfaction that the message did not address the Black Lives Matter movement. Others also accused the company of racial profiling through the alleged use of the code word “Nick” to refer to black shoppers.

Later in the week, the brand wrote in a post that it would donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund as well as match employee donations to The Innocence Project, The Antiracist Research and Policy Center, The Equal Justice Initiative and Year Up. It added that it would commit to diversifying its workforce by expanding recruiting efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and using more models and influencers of color in its campaigns and marketing images.

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Then just days later, on Monday, influencer Lydia Okello claimed in an Instagram post that they were asked to take part in an unpaid Pride month campaign. (Okello is gender nonconforming and uses the pronouns they/them.)

“Throughout the interaction, I stated my price and was met with no compensation,” they wrote. “‘No Budget’ means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person.”

They added, “This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?”

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On May 26th, I was contacted by a producer at @anthropologie to take part in a Pride campaign. I responded with my rates for the campaign requirements. The response was that there was no budget, but that the producer would be happy to email to discuss rates.⠀ ⠀ The email was a longer pitch, including a request for an advertisement on my Instagram page and 3-5 images for them to use wherever they would like. With no budget. ⠀ ⠀ The above are screenshots from our conversation, including a “nudge” in my DMs this week to respond to the email requests for free labour.⠀ ⠀ Throughout the interaction, I stated my price and was met with no compensation. “No Budget” means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person. Only after many messages/emails was there acknowledgement that I should be compensated. Even in that response, there was gaslighting. I stated my fees from the very first message.⠀ ⠀ This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?⠀ ⠀ I’ve been “paid” in exposure numerous times in the last 12 years as a style blogger. Which I now refuse to do. But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with “no budget”. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements. Seems timely, no?⠀ ⠀ We need to hold brands accountable to their lip service. In fact, with BLM being a “hot topic” to a lot of corporations, this is going to happen FREQUENTLY. Folks will want to capitalize on Black bodies & Black labour for the lowest price possible, as they have for several hundred years. ⠀ ⠀ The final slide is a post from June 5 on the brand page. When Anthropologie says “black lives do matter” what does that mean? When they plan to diversify their workforce, is it this free Black labour?⠀ ⠀ #payblackcreatives #MyAnthropologie

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As part of its statement on Thursday, Anthropologie said that it compensates all partners for contract services, and in the case of influencers, compensation can be made through product, financial payment or a combination of both.

“We support and stand with the Black community,” the company wrote. “We are committed to doing better — to being better.”

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