To Urban Outfitters, it was a t-shirt with a logo on it, but to many livid customers, it was an offensive piece of clothing boasting the name of an oft-misunderstood and stigmatized illness.
The article of attire in question, a white cutoff t-shirt with the word “Depression” plastered all over it, has been pulled from the retailer’s website after numerous outraged people took to social media to complain. Here are a few tweets that were lobbed in Urban Outfitters’ direction:
— lottie 226 DAYS (@juiceboxdan) January 5, 2014
Urban Outfitters have made a depression t-shirt. Well done, you’ve made it even harder for people genuinely suffering to be taken seriously. — chloe (@yeshomo_) January 5, 2014
The company responded to the uproar over the weekend by halting sales of the shirt and taking to social media to both apologize and explain the origin and intention of the top. Some key phrases in the retailer’s tweets were the following:
Hey everyone, we hear you and we are taking the shirt down from the site.
The shirt has been removed from our site – no longer for sale. Thank you for your concern!
For those asking, the tee was designed by a small brand named Depression and we are no longer selling it on our site.
The brand, “Depression,” is a small Singaporean clothing line, the founder of which was surprised to learn of the controversy his company’s product caused, especially since a men’s version of the same shirt was a sellout hit in Singapore.
“I was shocked that after one T-shirt people jumped to this conclusion,” Kenny Lim, co-founder of Depression told ABC News. “We make happy clothes,” he said. Lim went on to explain that he and his business partner, Andrew Loh, decided on the brand name after they left unhappy jobs in the ad industry to start their own company. “The clothing line is a reminder that we can be happy every day when we go to work…I just think we are being misunderstood,” Lim said. “I just want the focus to be on the brand.”
When asked whether the brand would keep making shirts like the one at the center of the controversy, Lim said, “I think it’s best we don’t make it anymore.”
Whether a case of cross-cultural misunderstanding or unfortunate branding, we think Lim is probably right.