Fashion retailer Urban Outfitters is facing outcry from Jewish groups over a t-shirt critics say is an offensive reference to the Holocaust.
The yellow shirt features an embroidered, six-pointed star over the breast pocket, and bears unfortunate overtones of the yellow badge Jewish people were forced to wear under the Nazi regime. Designed by the Danish label Wood Wood (whose spring/summer collection makes use of the same symbol), the $100 shirt appeared on the Urban Outfitters website last Thursday, in the same week as Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day. Some detractors believe that this was not a coincidence.
“We find this use of symbolism to be extremely distasteful and offensive, and we are outraged that your company would make this product available to your customers,” Barry Morrison, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Philadelphia-based retail firm.
As of this writing the shirt is still available; its page does not feature an acknowledgement of or apology for the scandal by the company, although the ‘Social’ section for the item is brimming with angry comments from both Jewish and non-Jewish viewers. The shirt is “mindblowingly offensive”, one reviewer noted. “I am never stepping foot in one of these stores again,” another wrote.
This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has been embroiled in a racism scandal. The semi-autonomous Native American Navajo Nation sued the store earlier this year for its Navajo underwear and hip-flasks, which the tribe deemed “derogatory and scandalous.”
In February, the store also came under fire from Irish American spokesman Seamus Boyle, president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, for selling t-shirts bearing slogans such as “Irish I was Drunk,” which Boyle described as “arrogance and disrespect to a whole nation.”
UPDATE: T-shirt designer Wood Wood has responded to the criticism, noting that the offending star-like image only appears on a prototype of the t-shirt and not on the final product:
as some of you are aware, several news sites have been writing about our ‘Kellog’ T-shirt, which feature an image of a six-pointed star, allegedly similar to the yellow badge jews were ordered to wear by the German nazis.
First of all the graphic is not the Star of David, and I can assure you that this is in no way a reference to judaism, nazism or the holocaust. The graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns for our spring/summer collection ‘State of Mind’.
However when we received the prototype of this particular style we did recognize the resemblance, which is why we decided not to include the star patch on the final production T-shirt.
I assume the image people have reacted to comes from Urban Outfitters´ web site. This must be a photograph of an early prototype.
I am sorry if anyone was offended seeing the shirt, it was of course never our intention to hurt any feelings with this.