Urban Outfitters is under fire again, this time by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The retailer is selling a “tapestry” that strongly resembles the uniforms the Nazis forced gays in concentration camps to wear during the Holocaust of World War II. The offending fabric was seen on sale for $69 as a part of Urban Outfitters’ “Assembly Home” line in Boulder, Colo.
The fabric consists of light gray stripes on a white background on which pink triangles are scattered randomly. Gays during the Holocaust were forced to wear a pink triangle on their uniforms, which were striped gray and white, in order to identify themselves as homosexuals. The timing of the tapestry’s release coincides with the recent 70-year anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp, Auschwitz.
A letter sent to Urban Outfitters President and CEO Richard A. Hayne by the ADL said that they object not only to the “insensitive design,” but also to the clothing store’s past sales of merchandise hinting at “Holocaust imagery.” The national director of the ADL, Abraham H. Foxman, also remarked in the letter that the use of the “gray and white stripped [sic] pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive.” He adds that the fabric should not be introduced into pop culture.
In 2012, Urban Outfitters was strongly reprimanded by the ADL for offering a T-shirt for sale that contained a star on the pocket. The organization claimed the pocket decoration resembled the Star of David that Jews were forced to wear on their clothing during the Holocaust. At the time, the ADL described the t-shirts as “a new low.”
Nazis are blamed for the deaths of approximately 11 million people during the Holocaust. Among the numbers killed were 6 million Jews, 3 million people of Polish descent, 500,000 gypsies and what is estimated to be between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals.
Urban Outfitters is no stranger to claims of insensitivity or to lawsuits arising from controversial merchandise. In 2011, the retailer sold a line called “Navajo,” under which they marketed accessories and clothing, including an item called the “Navajo Hipster Panty.” The line was pulled after a demand was sent to the company’s CEO by Sasha Houston Brown, who belongs to the Santee Sioux Nation.
In 2014, a Kent State sweatshirt, which the store labeled as “vintage,” sported what appeared to be blood splatter and bullet holes. They pulled the product from the shelves due to the negative backlash they received by those who said the top was disrespectful of the 1970 shooting at the college, during which four students were killed and nine were wounded while protesting the Vietnam War. Urban Outfitters issued a Twitter apology in which they said the red stains on the garment were not intended to resemble blood and were simply coincidental discolorations, while the holes were “from natural wear and fray.”
The company was also taken to task for its line of pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks made to look like prescription pill bottles. Abuse of prescription drugs is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The products were pulled from shelves as a result of a strong public backlash, which included a Kentucky governor and state representative.
There had been no response from Urban Outfitters as of Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, sales of the tapestry, which resembles the concentration camp uniforms worn by gays during the Holocaust, continue.
By Jennifer Pfalz