Editors' Blog: Brands and Companies to Avoid

In early July, it was discovered that the popular clothing brand Shein was selling swastika pendant necklaces for under $3 on their website.

This was incredibly alarming and disturbing to everyone in the HCAU family (to say the least), which is why the Editorial Team compiled a list of other companies and brands that are openly racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and/or transphobic. This could be the way their employees are treated, the merchandise they sell and/or their owners practices

Our goal of this July’s Editors’ Blog was to inform our readers of who to avoid when shopping for clothes, electronics, art supplies and more.

  1. 1. Hobby Lobby

    craft table

    As a crafter and long-time Hobby Lobby shopper, I am disappointed to report that Hobby Lobby is sexist, anti-woman, transphobic, and homophobic.

    Hobby Lobby is an arts and crafts retailer founded by Evangelical Christians. In 2012, the founders sued the Obama administration to stop a mandate under the federal healthcare reform law to provide drugs like the morning-after pill to employees through their health insurance. 

    The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the government on behalf of Hobby Lobby and other companies that have religious convictions against abortion.

    “These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith,” said David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, in a call with reporters. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.” In other words, they are simply sexist.

    In the devastating Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, the US Supreme Court allowed a handful of employers to restrict or completely block their employees’ access to birth control. The decision on this Supreme Court birth control case applied to more than half of all U.S. workers — that’s the tens of millions of workers at companies in which five or fewer people own more than 50%. This is devastating in every sense of the word. Two privately-owned companies brought this case to the Supreme Court: cabinet manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties, and the Hobby Lobby national chain of craft stores, which employs 28,000.

    Both companies I urge you to protest.

    A crippling blow to the pro-choice movement and women seeking low-cost health products. I am still crafty, but now I shop from Change the World By How You Shop, an ethical and sustainable online craft store. --Hannah Andress

  2. 2. Dolls Kill

    The Laladoc Martens

    Dolls Kill is one of many online fashion brands that have sprung up in an era of social media marketing and virtual fast fashion. Known for their edgy and rebellious styles, Dolls Kill has grown into a well-known name since its establishment in 2011. Looking past the trendy clothing, however, it’s clear that this brand is hardly unproblematic behind the scenes.

    In early June, right in the middle of the Black Lives Matter protests, Shoddy Lynn– the owner of Dolls Kill– posted a photo of the police in opposition of the protestors outside a Dolls Kill store. Captioned as “direct action in its glory” with a #blacklivesmatter hashtag just to top it all off, Lynn sent a clear message about where she stands with the BLM movement. The Dolls Kill page later posted three black squares on their instagram and stated that they had made a mistake, but I still question where their genuineness dissolves into damage control.

    Dolls Kill has also been criticized for their poor treatment of sex workers. Many of their aesthetics and styles are commodified from sex workers, even going as far as ripping off actual stripper gear, yet they have been accused of discriminating against sex workers and even firing an employee for being a stripper.

    Many of Dolls Kills’ designs have also come under fire for being stolen, racist, culturally appropriated and just all around gross and offensive. Whether it’s selling a “Dead Girls Can’t Say No” t-shirt or Native American headdresses, they have consistently profited off of offensive designs and stolen clothing/accessories.

    The Dolls Kill brand is shrouded in controversy, and their decisions regarding how they run their company have influenced me to not support their company or purchase any of their clothing. Instead of giving them your money, check out this helpful list of alternatives– many of which are black owned– that sell clothes with similar aesthetics! --Nicole Scallan

  3. 3. Lululemon

    Lululemon is known for its high-end activewear that is yoga-inspired and made for those who love to grind at the gym. This brand claims to practice sustainability and ethical production of their apparel, but several years of controversy may disagree with that statement.

    It is no surprise that Lululemon has a cult-like customer following, but the brand’s deeply rooted cult-like company culture is quite unexpected. Douglas Atkin, author of The Culting of Brands, says “It’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone almost directly using the techniques of cults and applying them to their business.” Lulu founder and chairman Chip Wilson formalized an internal constitution for the company and believes that the brand will bring the world from “mediocrity to greatness”. 

    If this is not disturbing enough, Wilson also admitted to creating the name “Lululemon” because he thinks Japanese people can’t say the letter “L”.

    In an interview with Canada’s National Post Business Magazine he said, “It’s funny to watch them [Japanese people] try and say it [Lululemon].” Back in 2009, Wilson wrote a blog post (that has since been deleted) about how “the name ‘lululemon’ has no roots and means nothing other than it has 3 L’s in it. Nothing more and nothing less.” There is a version of this blog post on Lululemon’s Facebook page

    On top of being cult-like and overtly racist, Wilson has also made some sexist remarks regarding his “ideal” customers. When conducting an interview with The New York Times, Wilson said his ideal customer is “a 32-year-old professional single woman named Ocean who makes $100,000 a year” and is also “engaged, has her own condo, is traveling, fashionable, has an hour and a half to work out a day.” He also once suggested in a Bloomberg TV interview that some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon’s yoga pants. 

    Wilson has since resigned from the company’s board of directors, but clearly remains as a presence given he is the founder and chairman of Lululemon. 

    For a full report on how Lululemon treats the planet, animals and their workers, go to the Good On You website. You can also find a great list of ethical alternatives for Lululemon on their website. -- Christina McAlister

     

  4. 4. Urban Outfitters 

    clothes

    Urban Outfitters is one of the largest and most popular stores for America’s youth right now, but recently people have been paying more attention to the many controversies surrounding its less-than-stellar practices. The brand has managed to be anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic. Not to mention extremely insensitive to matters such as mental health (including depression, suicide and eating disorders), school shootings and the opioid epidemic. 

    Let’s dive into this cesspool, shall we? 

    Firstly, the company has often been accused of stealing designs from independent designers and craftspeople, who get neither credit nor compensation for their stolen designs and don’t have the copyright protection to be able to bring a suit in court. A company that profits off of the ideas of others is not one that we can support; and that is truly the least of the poor behavior and practices that Urban Outfitters has shown over the years. 

    This company put a version of Monopoly on the shelves called “Ghettopoly,” a blatantly racist game that included game cards which read, "You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” If that’s not quite racist enough, allow me to inform you of how “OBAMA/BLACK” was used as a color description for a shirt they were selling.

    But wait, there’s more!

    In 2012, the Navajo Nation took Urban Outfitters to court for trademark infringement after the company released a line of extremely “tacky and insensitive” products that made use of the tribe’s traditional symbols and name.

    Another lawsuit worth mentioning here was from Feb. 2015 by the Anti-Defamation League, which sued Urban Outfitters for selling a tapestry that was “eerily reminiscent” of the clothing gay prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. 

    One of the most horrific products of theirs was the “vintage Kent State” sweatshirt, which depicts a bloodstain/splatter; on May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine other people were wounded on the Ohio University campus after an Army National Guard Unit fired on students protesting the Vietnam War. Making light of (and profit from?!) the tragic deaths of students? “Offensive” does not begin to cover my sentiments. 

    For the sake of expediency, I’ll just list a few others: Shampoo for “suicidal hair,” pill bottle-shaped paraphernalia, an “Eat Less” shirt…. At this point, it almost feels like there is some kind of internal competition at the company headquarters: “How many different kinds of insensitivity/racism/anti-Semitism/homophobia can we display?” 

    I urge readers to patronize more ethical and sustainable alternatives for their purchases. Thrifting (when done correctly) and buying from independent artists and artisans are a few alternatives I can recommend. --Emma Semaan

     

We hope this month's Editors' Blog was an eye-opening one that will prove useful the next time you shop. Put your money and support towards companies that are supportive to all and to small businesses that need the support.