Offensive fashion; Has Burberry crossed the line?

Burberry fashion faux pas

Designer brand Burberry landed themselves in hot water this week with a fashion faux pas of epic proportion. The fashion house Burberry was established by Thomas Burberry in 1856 as an outdoor wear company supplying its famous Gabardine fabric which was waterproof and breathable. The classic Burberry check pattern has been in use since the 1920s, predominantly as a lining for their trench coats.

Burberry grew as a prestigious label throughout the 70s and 80s through branching out from outdoor wear to high-end fashion for men, ladies and children. It reached its ‘peak’ in the 90s with everything from accessories to perfume and cosmetics.

However, with the rise of the ‘chav culture’ of the early 2000s; the brand’s famous check pattern was linked to football hooliganism. Celebrities associated with the ‘chav’ culture would adorn themselves in Burberry and so a flood of counterfeits swapped the streets and nobody could hide from the Burberry pattern.

Since then, Burberry has kept a somewhat of a low profile and the infamous checked pattern was banished to just 10% of their collection in a bid to reclaim the brand and banish the ‘chav’ image. To keep its luxury brand products from getting into the wrong hands and being sold off at cheaper prices; the company admitted to burning £90 million in unsold items over the last five years. A practice that was criticised by Greenpeace. In 2018, it destroyed £28.6 million worth of items, a practice they claim they will no longer practice.

Now that the backstory has been firmly laid out; let’s find out what Burberry have done to get all of the media in a flurry and setting Instagram and Twitter alight.

Noose hoodie

The brand has been accused of being insensitive due to one of the hoodies that were worn on the catwalk during London Fashion Week. The hoodie in question featured a drawstring that was shaped like a hangman’s noose. You read correctly; they thought it would be acceptable to have a hoodie that resembled a noose. In a society where mental health and suicide awareness are at the forefront of our minds; did they think it wouldn’t have been noticed?

Their defence was a nautical one; saying that the knot in the cord was influenced by sailing knots. Even if this is true, surely they have the sense to realise that a noose would offend people and cause upset. The minute you see it, the noose is apparent, why did nobody at Burberry say ‘hey, isn’t that overstepping the line?’

What were you thinking?

I am extremely confused. How on earth did this error slip through the net? I there is so much planning that is put into the design and production of designer fashion. Why would a designer think that this was a good idea? Do Burberry not have a process of quality control and if they do, why would others not question the design?

Even when Liz Kennedy questioned the item, they still proceeded to display it on the runway. What did they expect would happen? On seeing the offensive item, Liz asked to speak to someone regarding the hoodie but was told to write a letter detailing her grievance with the garment. Are people so narrow-minded that they fail to see how this might upset people? I think the person who told her to write a letter about it needs some lessons in manners.

Liz slammed the brand on her Instagram saying ‘suicide is not fashion’. She also commented ‘A massive brand like Burberry who is typically considered commercial and classy should not have overlooked such an obvious resemblance.’ ‘Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either.’

Are we a ‘sensitive’ society?

Some people would argue that the backlash is ‘overacting’; due to political correctness, people can get offended too easily. Would this error have had the same reaction twenty years ago? Is the presence of the internet exaggerating the magnitude of the situation?

In a society where everything is under a microscope, can anybody get away with ‘insensitive’ comments or imagery? As humans, we are not perfect and will never see ‘eye to eye’ on what is correct and appropriate behaviour.

Some people do not believe a noose to be offensive. I personally believe it is insensitive but I recognise how other people would just say ‘it’s a jumper, it is not that big of a deal.’

Don’t we all make mistakes?

Burberry issued an apology saying it was ‘deeply sorry’ for any distress that may have been caused. They also said that they had ‘made a mistake’ as a brand. Burberry chief executive Marco Gobbetti had even contacted Liz Kennedy in order to personally apologise for the incident.

Should this just be accepted as a mistake? When it comes down to something as sensitive as suicide or lynching, should we as a consumer just ‘let it go’ and still go on buying from Burberry? If you do think I want to boycott the brand’, how long will you hold out for; a month, a year, a lifetime?

I am fortunate enough not to be able to afford Burberry so I do not need to consider the decision. I do not like spending my money on things just for a name and if it conflicts with my morals I will not buy from the brand. Tarte is another company I refuse to buy from due to a similar ‘bad decision’.

Is all publicity good publicity

Has this ‘mistake’ benefitted Burberry or harmed them? I would have to air on the side of cynicism and say that any form of publicity can be beneficial.

After a PR disaster, a brand can either go either way. It can crush the brand’s image and ethos and send it to the ‘bottom of the brand barrel’ or it can spark a resurrection. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, a well planned ‘damage limitation’ strategy can work wonders on catapulting a brand into the forefront of people’s minds.

What are their next steps?

Too many brands and influencers’ I feel, get away with half baked apologies that are forgotten in an instant. If you are ‘deeply sorry’ put some of those profits into making a difference. By this I mean use your platform to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide, donate some of your expansive profits to charities in order to make a difference to people who suffer the most. Get up off your thousand-pound business thrones and put your money where your mouth is for a change.

What are your thoughts on the Burberry situation? I would love to know what you think in the comments. Can they recover from this setback; is any publicity good publicity?

Ciao for now beauties xx

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