Irish-Indian war newest fight for Urban Outfitters

Its flagship Center City retail outlet is on Walnut Street near Rittenhouse Square.

The adage “all publicity is good publicity” has proven true for one of Philadelphia’s top companies, Urban Outfitters, whose president Richard Hayne recently received the coveted Edward Powell Award as an example of excellence in the city’s business community.

But in contrast to civic excellence, Hayne’s brand drew the ire of two ethnic groups Tuesday, with Saint Patrick’s Day merchandise causing the Ancient Order of Hibernians to threaten a boycott and the use of the word “Navajo” in product descriptions causing the tribe’s government to file a trademark infringement lawsuit. The offending Irish items include a trucker hat with a stick figure on all fours vomiting shamrocks that reads “Irish Yoga,” and T-shirts emblazoned with shamrocks accompanied by logos such as “Irish I Were Drunk.”

“We need to get this defamation stopped immediately. Please call, e-mail or demonstrate in front of their stores,” president Seamus Boyle wrote on the Hibernians’ website.

The Navajo Nation, which holds more than 10 trademarks on products such as clothing and online sales, sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist order in June for the use of the word in the company’s “Navajo” collection. Urban scrubbed from their website all references to the term, which it had been using to describe everything from panties to hip flasks. But they continued to use it in their catalog, retail stores and subsidiary brand Free People, the lawsuit alleges. Free People’s website was selling several pieces of vintage jewelry labeled “Navajo” as of yesterday.

Urban Outfitters has continued its march from the small company founded with a few thousand dollars in the 1970s to an empire worth over $700 million.

When big fish eat little fish

During the last several years, Urban Outfitters has faced numerous complaints of plagiarism from independent artists, and more recently, objections to culturally insensitive graphics from certain ethnic groups. 

Online marketplaces like buyer-seller website Etsy have become particularly vulnerable to creative plagiarism.

Abby Kessler, co-owner of Smak Parlour four blocks south of Lost + Found, said, “All the jewelry designers I work with say they’re afraid to put their stuff on Etsy, because they don’t want anyone to copy it.”

Though local fashion entrepreneurs and artists are well aware of the stigma, some remain optimistic. “We never have a problem finding great artists in such a creative city,” said Kessler, who not only co-owns but also co-designs the products in her boutique.  “Independent artists make everything themselves, and that’s not something Urban Outfitters can ever do.”

Apologetic history

This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has been involved in a controversy
alleging discrimination:
   
They discontinued a T-shirt reading “Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl,” surrounded by dollar signs in 2003 after pressure from the Anti-Defamation League.
   
They stopped manufacturing glittery handgun-shaped Christmas tree ornaments in 2007 following the fatal shooting of Philadelphia police officer Chuck Cassidy.
   
The company issued an apology in 2007 for marketing keffiyehs as “antiwar” scarves and did the same in 2008 after discontinuing a T-shirt with a Palestinian youth holding a machine gun over the word “Victimized.”
    
In 2010, Urban Outfitters pulled a shirt reading “Eat Less” from their website after an outcry from eating disorder advocates.  


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Bike-sharing is in Philadelphia's future

The B-Cycle bike that Philadelphia will use is already part of bike-sharing services across the nation and in Santiago, Chile.

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Movies

Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a…

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

The Word

Taylor Swift has a hard time leaving the…

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

Movies

Interview: 'The Quiet Ones' star Sam Claflin on…

"Hunger Games" co-star Sam Claflin talks about his new horror film "The Quiet Ones," plus how technology connects him with fans.

Going Out

Spend an evening in Franklin Square

Support historic Franklin Square on May 15 during the sixth annual Evening in Franklin Square soiree. The evening includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction and…

MLB

The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.

MLB

Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

5 infamous pitcher ejections for cheating

Never fear Yankees fans, Michael Pineda is far from the first MLB pitcher to be thrown out of a game for cheating.

Food

Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.