It looks like Hollister has a new problem on its hands. And, no, it's not another case of bed bugs or people getting lost in their dimly lit stores. This time, the mass retailer is facing racial discrimination accusations from their recently opened South Korea outpost.
For the grand opening of the first Hollister store in Korea in Yeouido, models dressed as lifeguards were flown in to take photos with customers -- you know, the same drill we get stateside. Something we don't see during the store openings here in the states? Models flipping their middle finger and mocking the customers. Lee Hyung-Ju described the offensive actions on the English Korean news site koreaBANG:
"Images of models making 'squinty eyes' faces, flipping their middle finger to photographers, and mocking Asian pronunciation of English appeared on their Twitter accounts."
Hollister had brought in four models for the marketing event that lasted from August 30 until September 2, according to koreaBANG. But, customers soon discovered that a couple of the models had posted offensive pictures to their Twitter accounts. One photo features a Hollister model standing in front of Gyeongbokkung Palace, squinting his eyes and making peace signs with his fingers. When one commenter remarked on how many Asians had liked the photo, he responded, "Hahahaha they ruhhvvvv itttt!"
To make matters worse, it was discovered that a third model had flashed his middle finger during the photo session at the store opening and went on to post his own mocking photos on Twitter, according to koreaBANG. Local papers have been covering the controversy, and Korean customers have started to threaten boycotts. Hollister was quick to respond with an apology on their Facebook page:
"In summary, the company terminated the couple of associates involved. On behalf of our more than 80,000 associates around the world who cherish our core values and our culture of diversity and inclusion, we sincerely apologize for the offense caused by these unauthorized, ill-considered actions."
What do you make of this controversy? Would you boycott Hollister for something like this?
Looks like Hollister isn't the only mass retailer that deals with scandals. Check out some of Urban Outfitters' controversies...
Irish Drunk Scoop
In March 2012, Urban Outfitters began selling St. Patrick's Day-themed clothing that included shirts with derogatory statements about Irish people, such as: "Irish I Was Drunk." These shirts received negative reactions from Irish-Americans and were pulled. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
In June 2010, Urban Outfitters released this t-shirt with this description: "Eat less or more or however much you'd like in this seriously soft knit tee cut long and topped with a v-neck." They should have printed that whole description instead of just "eat less" which seems to promote an unhealthy lifestyle and body image. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/03/eat-less-urban-outfitters_n_598904.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
Catalog Photo Condemned
Urban Outfitters <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/urban-outfitters-lesbian-kiss-photo-one-million-moms_n_1431134.html" target="_hplink">received heat</a> from anti-gay groups for this photo in their April 2012 catalogue depicting two female models kissing. A group known as One Million Moms wrote on their website: "On page two of this catalog is a picture of two women kissing in a face holding embrace!...The content is offensive and inappropriate for a teen who is the company's target customer." (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/urban-outfitters-lesbian-kiss-photo-one-million-moms_n_1431134.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
In April 2010, Urban Outfitters pulled a t-shirt from their online store with a color option of 'Obama/Black.' The store had produced Obama-themed shirts but none of them with this color description. In response, the store released this statement: "The burnout pattern on this shirt is comprised of two colors - one is an internally developed color we called "Obama Blue" and the other is "Black." Unfortunately our website database truncate this combination to read "Obama/Black." We should have caught the error, and apologize for offending anyone." (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/01/urban-outfitters-obamabla_n_444220.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
'Tranny' Greeting Card
In March 2012, Urban Outfitters came under fire for a greeting card that was deemed transphobic by LGBT advocates. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/urban-outfitters-tranny-greeting-card_n_1364589.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
Kiss Me Tee
Another derogatory t-shirt against Irish and Irish-Americans saying: "Kiss me. I'm Drunk, or Irish, or whatever." (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
Irish Yoga Trucker Hat
Surprisingly, the offensive St. Patrick's Day-themed items have not been pulled from Urban Outfitters' shelves, even when this trucker cap outraged Irish and Irish-American people. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
Jewish Star T-Shirt
In April 2012, Urban Outfitters angered the Jewish community by selling a $100 shirt that critics said mimicked the design of star patches Jewish people are forced to wear during the Holocaust. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/urban-outfitters-jewish-star-tshirt_n_1441731.html?ref=style " target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
I Heart Destination Necklaces
In May 2011, an independent jewelry designer accused Urban Outfitters of stealing her designs. She wrote on her blog: "I understand that they are a business, but it's not cool to completely rip off an independent designer's work." Urban pulled the collection. (<a href="http://imakeshinythings.tumblr.com/post/5855716317/not-cool-urban-outfitters-not-cool" target="_hplink">I Make Shiny Things</a>)
I Support Same Sex Marriage T-Shirts-
Amidst the dealings of Proposition 8 in 2008, Urban Outfitters began selling shirts that said, "I Support Same-Sex Marriage." The shirts were pulled a week later. (Courtesy photo)
Hailey Clauson T-Shirt
Model Hailey Clauson posed for photographer Jason Lee Parry when she was just 15-years old. Parry released this photo of Clausen to Urban Outfitters, which he had agreed not to release when the young model's agency complained about the salacious nature of the "crotch shot" pose. The photo became a t-shirt and Clauson sued Urban Outfitters and Parry for damaging her reputation. (Courtesy photo)
In 2003, Urban Outfitters began selling a Monopoly knockoff called Ghettopoly, complete with "Hustle" bonus cards and "Smitty's XXX Peep Show." The game angered the African-American community and Rev. Glenn Wilson of Philadelphia called for a boycott, saying, "There's no way that game could be taken in any way other than that this man had racist intent in marketing it." (Courtesy photo)
Vote For Vodka & USA Drinking Team T-Shirts
Although Urban Outfitter's biggest demographic is 18-24 year-olds, the company is selling shirts that encourage underage drinking. Jan Withers, national president of Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says, "Kids shouldn't be wearing these t-shirts...Marketing [alcohol-related products] to teens is not in any way acceptable." (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/urban-outfitters-drinking-t-shirts_n_1836859.html?utm_hp_ref=style" target="_hplink">Urban Outfitters</a>)
In October 2011, Urban Outfitters offended Native Americans by describing some of their products as "Navajo." The Native American-inspired items received heat from the Navajo Nation, whose attorney general sent the store a cease-and-desist letter. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/urban-outfitters_n_1022663.html">Urban Outfitters</a>)