Urban Outfitters: 'Some People Who Worked Here Were Stupid'

Company trying to regroup after series of gaffes
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2016 12:50 PM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2016 7:03 AM CDT
Urban Outfitters: 'Some People Who Worked Here Were Stupid'
Sale signs adorn the door of an Urban Outfitters retailer on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009. Retail sales disappointed in July and the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week. The latest government...   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Philadelphia Magazine takes an in-depth look at one of the city's most iconic companies, Urban Outfitters, and its efforts to overcome a slew PR disasters in recent years. Writer Jason Fagone puts them in the three categories of "outrageous product" (like a Kent State shirt that seemed to have a blood-spattered design), "theft" (including the suit by the Navajo Nation against UO for Navajo-themed panties and other items) and a public perception that the company is anti-gay. The latter apparently stems from CEO Dick Hayne's support of politicians such as Rick Santorum, though all interviewed for the story, including a gay female executive, pushed back hard, and sincerely, against the notion. As for the iffy products, chief global creative director Sue Otto defends some of them as being well-intentioned but misunderstood.

But, she concedes, “There are some people who worked here who were stupid. ... People go, did you do that for marketing? And I’m like, it was just an error." Her goal now is “changing the way people think about us," she says, adding that she has no idea what "hipster culture"—which the company is often accused of purveying—even means. Perhaps one clue about a future direction: "The idea of social consciousness and being involved is huge," says Otto. The story suggests the $3.4 billion empire is at a "crucial crossroads," but it ends on an optimistic note. UO "has always functioned as a kind of ruthless creative vortex" for the young, writes Fagone, "and now Otto’s customers are telling her they believe they can change the world, and she’s listening." Click for the full story, which delves into the corporate culture of Urban Outfitters Inc.—parent company of brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, and Terrain—at Philly's old Navy Yard. (More Urban Outfitters stories.)

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