Urban Outfitters Blames Everyone But Themselves For Horribly Offensive T-Shirt

Christmas Shoppers Hunt For Gifts On The High StreetUrban Outfitters pulled a shirt from their online store that had the world “depression” scrawled across it after a bit of public outcry on the matter. Urban Outfitters is trying to defend itself, but it’s actually just passing the buck.

urban outfitters depression shirt

UO isn’t particularly well known for its tasteful judgement (see: Ganesh socks, Che Guevara merchandise, Navajo panties and flask) and many consumers were appalled by the shirt. My first instinct wasn’t to be horribly offended since I mostly thought the shirt was stupid but innocuous, but I think some of the criticism made a lot of sense and changed my mind.




I do think the casual use of depression for something frivolous like a stupid (and ugly) t-shirt is pretty irresponsible, and UO was right to take the shirt down. Now, Laura Johnson, Urban’s executive director of women’s apparel and accessories, sent Fashionista an email explaining how the depression shirt made it into their store.

We did not create the Depression brand logo tee shirt and it most certainly was not a social statement of any kind. It was brought to our attention that customers were offended by the product. Though is was not intended to exploit mental illness, we respectfully removed the product as to not further upset anyone. We’re sorry to those offended by the tee. We were trying to support a small brand, not glamorize mental illness in any way.

Okay, cool. They didn’t create the shirt. I don’t really understand the thinking behind separating selling and manufacturing, since the shirt didn’t walk into Urban Outfitters demanding at gunpoint to be put on the shelves. It doesn’t matter that UO didn’t design the shirt–somebody on the UO payroll found it, picked it, and approved it to be sold under the UO name.

Stressing again that Urban Outfitters did not design the shirt, Fashionista found out that it was in fact “commissioned it from a Singapore-based label called Depression,” based on a similar menswear logo shirt that had been popular in Singapore. How is commissioning, for these purposes, different from designing it themselves? Urban knew what it was asking for, so it’s patently absurd to play dumb and pass the buck.

I don’t care that a company called Depression exists, or that they occasionally emblazon their shirts with their brand name. But it’s ridiculous that Urban obviously offended many of their consumers by selling it, and then instead of taking the blame, they pretended like this controversial shirt fell into their laps without their approval. Just accept responsibility and do better in the future, instead of blaming it on the small brand you claimed that you were trying to support.

Photo: Urban Outfitters, Getty Images

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    • JennyWren

      Am I the only person who looks at these things and wonders who in the hell would buy them in the first place?

      • Julia Sonenshein

        Right there with you.

    • Lindsey Conklin

      I especially hate the “eat less” shirt, but this one is awful too.

    • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

      I’m kind of more surprised by the awkward sentence structure and typo in the UO director’s email?

    • Alexandra

      But I don’t understand WHAT it was INTENDED to do then? It just seems random and weird to me. What is the point of something like that?

    • Allyson_et_al

      I’m not so much offended by this shirt as baffled. Why on earth would someone wear it?

    • Fuzzy Selfie

      The eat less shirt is actually a public service announcement for many people

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Yes, thank you, cos I want to explain to my 10 year old why a shirt says Eat Less.
      WTF is wrong with people.
      These words and signs can be just a triggering as a swastika. as a recovered bulimic, I can honestly say if I EVER saw a shirt with wording like that in my local store, you can bet your ass it’d be on the radio and boycotted.

    • Gina Mann

      I dont see anything wrong…also the najavo panties are great