An online storm broke out this week over Urban Outfitters Inc., and it intensified Thursday night when teen celebrity Miley Cyrus hopped onto Twitter to share a few thoughts of her own.
The TV/music/movie star's comments, which implicitly attacked the company for its founder's support of Republican causes, began not, apparently, with the firepower of a highly paid marketing machine. Rather, her remarks capped a frenzy that started with a single shout-out from a jewelry designer in Chicago with a Twitter account.
That midweek missive came from @imakeshinylove, an account belonging to Koerner. It linked to photos, on the Urban Outfitters website and her own, showing similar silver necklaces shaped like American states with hearts punched through the precious metal.
She also posted photos of the two necklace lines on a Tumblr blog page attached to her website, in which she said her United States of Love line was one reason "I was able to quit my full-time job."
Her posts begged the questions: Had Urban cribbed her designs? Were they her designs to begin with?
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the apparel-and-accessories retail corporation, Sara Goodstein, did not respond to requests for comment on Koerner's claim, or about the broader online fury that ensued.
Nor did Koerner respond to a request for an interview Friday, with activity on her Twitter account suggesting that she was overwhelmed by the online ruckus. Her original link to Urban Outfitters' online page no longer showed the necklace it had apparently been hawking or the photo that had been visible earlier in the week.
On Thursday, the company addressed the jewelry situation in a post on its own Twitter account, @urbanoutfitters, that said: Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.
Hollywood caught wind of Koerner's claim after bloggers had spread word of it across the Internet, adding their own unflattering opinions.
By Thursday evening, Cyrus, who has more than a million Twitter followers, chimed in.
The former Hannah Montana star posted a series of comments that included indirect shots at Urban's GOP-friendly chairman and founder, Dick Hayne, and one of his most prominent conservative beneficiaries, Republican former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, to whom he donated campaign money in the past.
Love that everybody is hating on Urban Outfitters, Cyrus wrote Thursday evening under the banner "MileyCyrus Gypsy Heart Tour" and the Twitter handle @MileyCyrus.
Her next post went beyond jewelry to politics, apparently referring to Hayne's well-known patronage of Santorum: . . . every time you give them money you help finance a campaign against gay equality. #SHADYASHELL.
Then she took aim at Santorum specifically, who years ago was scorned for remarks that his critics took to mean likened homosexuality to bestiality: "IF WE ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE NEXT THING U KNOW PEOPLE WILL BE MARRYING GOLD FISH" - Rick Santorum UO contributed $13,000 to this mans campaign.
A phone message for Lillian Matulic, vice president of publicity at Hollywood Records, Cyrus' label in California, was not returned Friday.
A phone call to Virginia Davis, a press contact for Santorum, also was not returned.
Urban's chief executive officer, Glen T. Senk, brought up the issue of Hayne's politics in March, in a lecture on leadership to students at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
The question he had been posed was about diversity and the culture at the company, which has headquarters at the Navy Yard and is growing larger with each year as it expands globally.
"You all probably know, till the day he dies Dick Hayne's going to be famous for giving Rick Santorum some money 15 years ago," said Senk, who has often described Hayne as a mentor and was referring to his well-known political leanings. "Dick Hayne's a Republican, OK?"
"I'm the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, and I supported Bob Casey, who dethroned Santorum," Senk continued. "So, obviously, Dick and I don't agree, politically. Now, Dick has moderated over the years, and I probably have moderated over the years, because we have learned from each other. . . ."
He went on to tell students at the March 31 evening lecture that directors at the corporation, whose stores include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, and Terrain, are from all over the globe and of various "races, religions, political beliefs, people who are fiscally conservative."
"But absolutely," Senk added, "the bond is a love for the company, respect for each other. We don't hire disrespectful people."
Urban Outfitters stores, specifically, target mostly shoppers in their teens and 20s with clothing, accessories, jewelry, and even free music downloads. The company's other stores generally cater to older or more affluent shoppers. The company prides itself on its eclectic mix of merchandise and sends employees across the globe in search of inspiration and new ideas.
The jewelry dispute sparked much activity on Koerner's Twitter account Thursday and Friday. At one point Thursday, she apologized: So sorry if I'm not able to respond to your tweets right away, I will def get to them. XO!
Then she posted a promotion: As a thank YOU for all the love and support today, i would like to extend a 20% off coupon to everyone today. Just use the code "THANKYOU"!
Earlier in the day, she had asked her Twitter followers if anyone knew of a good intellectual-property attorney.
On Friday, she apologized: If I don't get back to you right away, please forgive me. xo
Apparently also struggling to keep up with demand for the products on her website, www.imakeshinythings.com, she tweeted Friday: If you don't see something in the shop, it will be there shortly. Renewing everything now.