Urban Outfitters and the Problem with Really Fast, Really Offensive Fashion

September 16, 2014 • Fashion

You’ve been there, I’m sure. Experienced those days where you are simply too tired to engage with your sad mop of a brain, let alone the world. But because we are not preschoolers with nice little nappy blankets and moms to make our boxed lunches, we have to leave the house and attempt to work, much to the detriment of everyone around us. Bad things happen on these days, terrible things are said. The decision-making process is sluggish, drugged thing dragging its feet behind you like a knocked out 300-pound linebacker. It is said that to get behind the wheel in an exhausted state such as this is just as bad as getting behind the wheel when drunk. Which I’m pretty sure is what happened when someone at Urban Outfitters decided it would be real cool to sell this blood-splattered Kent State sweatshirt.

Reportedly a vintage, one-of-a-kind piece from the company’s “Urban Renewal” collection, Urban Outfitters claims it was never their “intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970.” Intentionally or otherwise, it is not the first time Urban Outfitters has received heat for poor decisions. Take, for instance, their “Eat Less” shirt (arguably the most boring graphic ever, in addition to being stupidly offensive) and their “Depression” crop-top (mental illness dressed up to look like a ‘90s rap album cover). And we’re not even scratching the surface on their uninspired tees that fall into the “drunk sloppy b**ch” category, with such charmed phrases as “I DRINK YOU’RE CUTE” or “I VOTE FOR VODKA” and other tees to wear to your next job interview.


Come on, people. You’re seriously sitting in a design room coming up with this shit for people to wear, getting it approved, and then taxing a planet suffering from ever-decreasing non-renewable resources with the making of it? Yes, this is all offensive on a micro, politically incorrect level. But pull back to the macro and it’s even worse. The amount of useless garbage companies make every day in the hopes to make a buck—polluting the environment in addition to my field of vision—is the stuff that is slowly killing polar bears. Yes, I said it: Your dumb shirts are contributing to global warming.

I digress.

Back to really fast, really offensive fashion.

The problem with companies like Urban Outfitters is the speed at which they need to make and move product. It’s a quantity vs. quality issue.. Every two weeks, Zara has a whole new set of items on the floor, freshly ripped off and ready for your closet. Unlike, say, I don’t know, Alexander McQueen, Zara likely does not have the time to painstakingly go through every piece of item in its line, which is why things like their children’s “sheriff tee” actually got to see the light of day… even though it looked like a concentration camp uniform from the Holocaust.


In my estimation, these designers are overworked and grasping for straws, even seriously offensive ones. When you’re tired and don’t have time to think or be genuinely creative, this is what happens: After yet another exhausting day of trying to figure out what kids these days will spend the most money on so your company stays in the black and you keep your job, you fall asleep sitting upright with a bowl of kale chips in your lap and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas playing on the TV; you wake up the next morning inspired and unawares, sketching a cutesy striped shirt with a gold star on it, incapable of even having made the subconscious connection between the two. And, voila, modern day concentration camp gear.

One of high fashion's lowest moments.

One of high fashion’s lowest moments.

Even when intentionally derivative, fashion has always had a way of distancing itself from its inspirations—namely, reality. It appropriates things from real life and elevates it with new fabrics that don’t smell like real life. It takes sweaty, impoverished, yet-to-be-famous rock stars and turns it into something an upper class gallerist in her late 20s can wear to dindin. It takes Larry Clark junkies and designs makeup lines around it. All appropriation is inherently offensive, because it is inherently inauthentic. But fashion, like many art forms, relies heavily on appropriation, and because it is an intrinsically surface medium, we forgive them for it. And so it continues to cull the world for inspiration—from the old woman down the street, to the rats crawling on subway garbage, to the pattern spilt milk makes on your kitchen floor, to—yes, when they’re not thinking clearly—a college campus massacre from the ‘70s. And when that happens it’s the fashion equivalent to a 20-car pile-up caused because some Mack truck driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Good luck cleaning up the mess.



Read more:
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