Urban Outfitters in Trouble for Depression Shirt

Formerly-alternative clothing retailers Urban Outfitters have recently hit the news, and the hot water, over a debatably offensive t-shirt they are, or more accurately were, selling. This isn’t the first time they’ve run into issues with their clothing; previous disasters include a pair of socks emblazoned with nothing less than a picture of lord Ganesh. Tasteful. But whether or not they’re committing crimes of fashion is another story, this one’s just about how they’re upsetting various different groups of people.

So what’s this latest shirt to cause upset, and which group have they offended this time? The t-shirt is a white crop with the word “depression” printed in black over and over and over. This has caused distress as it “clearly” makes fun of mental illness, which has led to a petition with over 5000 signatures demanding it’s retraction from sale. This went off successfully, although Urban Outfitters have passed the blame along very quickly, fingering a brand just starting out from Singapore as the real culprits. I might have suggested that the UO buyer who picked it out might be more guilty, but I’m not trying to shift blame as far away as I can.

This brand from Singapore? They’re called Depression. In the time-honoured tradition of lazy, narcissistic design, they’ve just written their brand name repeatedly on a shirt. Many, many reputable designers do it. According to a spokesman for the brand, they are shocked at the accusation. They make happy clothes, and this shirt is a reminder that we should be happy everyday apparently. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Depression might not mean the same thing in Singapore; pretty certain something’s been lost in translation.

Regardless, it doesn’t actually contain a joke about mental health, nowhere does it actually say anything about it. I can see that kind of shirt coming out of a mental health charity’s awareness campaign as a support thing. But because it was for profit not charity, we’re overreacting in a big way. I guess the brand, who have now been dropped by UO *shockingly*, are going to need a major name redesign if they want to make it big then.

Ari Carrington