Another day, another retailer offending members of a major religion by co-opting one of its most revered symbols.
Unlike the recent case of designer Roberto Cavalli and a design that just happened to very closely resemble the symbol used by Sufi Muslims to denote God, this one involving Urban Outfitters‘ pillow covers can’t quite be addressed with a completely unbelievable “but we didn’t know!” statement or the “third party vendors!” explanation used to dismiss stories about Amazon, Sears and Walmart selling posters of a concentration camp.
The issue here, as reported by BuzzFeed, is that Urban Outfitters carried pillows bearing the clear image of Lord Ganesh as part of a series created by an artist who does not seem to belong to the Hindu faith.
This isn’t the first time UO has stepped in the (metaphorical!!) elephant dung, either…
Just over six months ago, the retailer got in trouble for selling Ganesh socks. The issue was a perceived lack of respect shown to the deity and, by extension, all those who count themselves as members of the religion.
Then, as now, UO agreed to remove the items from its online stores but did not go so far as to issue an apology, though a spokesperson for a prominent Hindu group demanded a response.
Again, this is basically SOP for UO. Back in 2012, the retailer had to pull a shirt with a symbol that closely resembled the Star of David.
The most unusual part of the whole story is the fact that the proto-hipster company earned headlines in early 2012 for very different reasons: a bit of investigative blogging revealed that recently-promoted CEO Richard Hayne had donated money to right-wing Evangelical/repeat presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Hayne reportedly told former (openly gay) CEO Glen Senk that “I hate his views regarding homosexuality, but I’m not a one-issue voter.'”
You’d think that a man who at least identifies with such an ardent Christian would be more sensitive to the concerns of other religious groups than the average guy on the street in attempting to steer his company away from such controversies.