As if Urban Outfitters hasn't dealt with enough controversy this year, the Philadelphia-based retailer decided to end 2012 with a bang by issuing a holiday catalog rife with expletives.
The majority of products, which include Urban's typical offerings - flasks, sweaters, and other goods, aren't directly offensive - but the manner in which these pieces are presented is creating a level of concern from parents who don't want their children to be exposed to words that the media avoids. Candles and pillows with the words "sh-t" and "f-ck" splayed across its canvases in full have moved parents and consumers of the youthful brand to speak out against Urban's seemingly callous use of profanity. A few of the offending products include a candle resembling the Love Park sculpture, replaced by the four letter word, "F-CK," emblazoned in capital letters. There's also a simple white, stainless steel flask, that reads, "That Sh-t Cray." The phrase, made popular by Jay-Z and Kanye with the release of their collaboration album earlier this year, has become a mainstream pop culture reference and phrase used by America's youth.
We recount Urban Outfitters' tumultuous, controversial, lawsuit-laced year: In March, the retailer released a collection of offensive St. Patty's Day tees that the Congressional Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs responded to stating that the shirts were "fueling stereotypes that many Irish-Americans, as well as the people of Ireland, work so hard to dispel." The retailer did not respond to requests for comment regarding the issue. That same season, the parents of an underage model served the retailer with a lawsuit involving provocative images of their then 15-year-old daughter splashed across men's tees sold by the brand.
But the biggest of Urban's woes this year occured in late February when the Navajo Nation slapped the company with a trademark infringement lawsuit over products like Urban's "Navajo Feather Earrings," and its "Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask," and our personal favorite, the "Navajo Hipster Panty."
But this is what Urban Outfitters does best - the retailer wants to appeal to its target demographic of teens and 20-somethings who use these profanity-laced statements in a nonchalant manner, on a daily basis. The Navy Yard-headquartered company embraces controversy because rebelliousness appeals to many of its young followers. And these same fans are rushing to Urban's defense, by vocalizing their support on the brand's Facebook page and commenting that critics need to lighten up and understand the brand's overall appeal.
"It's pretty stupid how people are making such a big deal about your merch having profanity and drug refrences on it. but when Spencer's does it, it's ok. i personally love all the new merch, especially things that could be "offensive" to others. People are too censored now a day's and need to lighten the hell up," commented Kaitlyn Marie on Urban's Facebook page. However in this case, the direct schism between an older, more conservative group and Urban's younger wave of followers, could impact the retailer's sales figures in the most profitable margin of its year.
After all, parents are providing the funds for their kids to buy gifts this holiday season. Imagine the horror experienced by certain members of households after unwrapping a curse-riddled glass that says, "Merry Christmas, B-tch." On the company's Facebook page, Gary Ashman wrote, "Profane products? Fine. But, I think what people are upset about here is the juxtaposition of these products with a religious holiday.... it is in extremely bad taste. None of the protestors here have said anything but that they won't buy from UO anymore, as is their right."
What are your thoughts? Would you gift these products? Do you think this catalog will help or hurt Urban's projected holiday sales figures?