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