A month ago, Dior designer John Galliano said on tape, “I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be gassed and dead.” Since then, Dior has rightly severed ties, with some prodding from Jewish Dior model and recent Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, and commenced the search to replace its once-prominent designer.
In metropolises all over the world that house Dior boutiques, shoppers are also seeing an ethical dilemma being posed: Will the mere consumption of the designer’s spring collection be an emblem of support for Galliano’s words? Fortunately for those here in Madison, this hardly necessitates worry — no Dior vendors grace the storefronts of State Street, after all (as if struggling college students could afford to drop that kind of capital on anything but textbooks anyway).
However, perhaps unwittingly to many shoppers, there are several opportunities for showing either allegiance or disdain on similarly heinous moral issues in our city. In fact, the holy trinity of name-brand stores currently residing on our beloved State Street — Urban Outfitters, Gap and American Apparel — all have significant skeletons in their closets.
Let’s start with Urban Outfitters, owned by Richard Hayne (and don’t forget he’s also the head of the beautifully-decorated Anthropologie stores, one of which can be found in Hilldale Mall). Many deep sighs were shed by my crestfallen, Urban-loving self when I learned that the company is a large financial supporter of Republican political candidates, among them the highly-homophobic former Senator Rick Santorum. In an interview with the Associated Press, Santorum was quoted as saying he has “no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. … The question is, do you act upon those orientations?” In other public statements, the former Pennsylvania senator has equated homosexuality with pedophilia, incest, bigamy and adultery.
I felt deceived — isn’t Urban Outfitters supposed to be hip, and, within the definition of hip, also not a bigot? Clearly the core of my beliefs should not have naively equated those two things so easily.
Sure, the CEO of Urban Outfitters has every right to do what he wants with his money. But so do I, and so does every other consumer of Urban Outfitter’s products. And frankly I choose not to buy clothes, accessories and gifts from a store headed by someone that can support a candidate like Santorum — even if, as Hayne claims, he’s not a “one-issue voter,” $13,150, by PinkNews’ numbers, is a lot of money when you’re not sure exactly which issue it will be going toward.
Furthermore, I knew long before I found out Hayne’s political financial backings that being a Urban Outfitters consumer means you pay sky-high prices for things that usually end up falling apart faster than a Hollywood marriage. Despite their drool-inducing window displays, it’s just not worth it.
Next up: Gap. I’m leaning toward being forgiving of this corporation and not just because my grandma still gives me a gift card every year. The allegations against the Gap, Inc., that some of their clothing was produced in a sweatshop in Saipan, happened almost four years ago. At the time that news broke about unsafe working conditions, unpaid overtime and even forced abortions, Gap announced it would be making sure that none of the clothes from this location would reach its stores. It also told the New York Times in 2007 that it has policies against this type of labor that were clearly violated. I’d like to optimistically hope it has cleaned up its act since then.
Thirdly, American Apparel. For those who have money to burn on American Apparel, please consider that it is fueling another fire — a CEO’s crimes.
Although we all like to shop American Apparel because of the American-made label their garments can boast, the media was screaming earlier this month about a suit filed by a former teenage store employee against founder and CEO Dov Charney, claiming he “treated her as a sex captive,” according to Reuters. This is not Charney’s first sexual assault-related accusation.
This isn’t to say that the morally-conscious Madison shopper has nowhere to turn! The Sweden-based H&M, which recently closed down all Tokyo stores so employees could be with their families in the tsunami aftermath, has a location in West Towne Mall. It will also be donating nearly 100,000 garments to the Japanese Red Cross, according to its website.
There are also online sites like Etsy, Threadless, Fred Flare and Modcloth that make it possible to find an array of fashions no matter your location. Private sites like Thegreenloop.com or Ecofriendlyfashion.blogspot.com provide helpful info on new environmentally-sound designers, as well as advice on how to maneuver local vintage and thrift stores like Rethreads, St. Vincent de Paul and Good Style Shop (I’ve found making or altering your own clothing to be more fun and rewarding than buying a new outfit).
For Madisonians who care about the causes their money is going to support (aside from the “adorable wardrobe” cause) these unsettling behind-the-scenes issues should be brought to light. From there, it is up to the consumer’s conscience to decide if said skeletons are important enough issues to merit a boycott (or girlcott, as some have deemed) of these stores’ products.