Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Australian retailer  falls foul of America's race neurosis

Australian fashion retailer Best & Less has apologised to disgruntled commentators on social media after its latest catalogue was attacked for carrying racial overtones.

The cover of the retailer’s latest catalogue depicts a dark-skinned woman eating a watermelon and a small group of its Facebook followers were quick to point out the likeness to racial iconography used in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“I hope it's just the case that you didn't know the cultural reference instead of being racist,” one man posted on Best & Less’ Facebook page on Sunday.  “Imagine if you run this in USA.”

Best & Less marketing director Jee Moon told Fairfax Media her team were unaware of the American stereotype when they designed the cover, which was meant to “celebrate summer,” using a diverse range of models to reflect its broad customer base.

“I genuinely was unaware of [the stereotype] until yesterday, it’s not from a point in time and a culture that I’m familiar with - if we had known we wouldn't have done it,” she said. 

“It really was not the intention to offend anyone. That said, I’m not apologising for including different women and in breaking the mould.  “Throughout our catalogues we have had a theme of celebrating real women.”

Best & Less apologised for the misunderstanding in a Facebook post on Tuesday, which received 204 likes and 117 comments within its first couple of hours of going live.

“We apologise if anyone is offended by our catalogue cover - this is not at all our intent,” it read.  “We're proud to show greater diversity of ages, sizes and ethnicity in our models, which is reflective of our wonderfully broad customer base.” “Thank you for sharing your perspective on the cover and again, please accept our apologies for any offence caused.”

While many people assumed the oversight was innocent, they were critical of the retailer’s advertising department for its lack of awareness.

“Although unintentional, it does warrant an apology and discussion in the advertising department about people researching the possible effects of their creative choices before going to print,” Monique Kowalcyzyk posted.

Others were more sympathetic. “Why would you be apologising for embracing diversity?” Nikki Bee said.  Are you now ashamed of the campaign?”



Anonymous said...

If you don't embrace US "culture" along with its hangups, you can't survive in the global market!

Dean said...

". . .
“I hope it's just the case that you didn't know the cultural reference instead of being racist,” one man posted on Best & Less’ Facebook page on Sunday. “Imagine if you run this in USA.”

Yes, just imagine. Now just imagine that this is an Australian company selling to Australian residents. Just imagine that Australians have their own culture and taboos. Just imagine that we in the U.S. should keep our noses out of Australian business and mind our own.

If you want to get your panties in a twist do so about things in U.S.A.

My personal apologies to Best & Less for having to deal with those in the U.S.A. who feel everyone in the world must avoid anything that will offend the oh-so-racially-sensitive United States.

TheOldMan said...

If it's so bad, then why did the ladies agree to pose with the watermelons?

Anonymous said...

See, just stick with plain white people and you are less likely to run afoul of some obscure representation that might offend some select group.

Dean said...

2:37 PM: But if you did that the non-white population would be offended. Doesn't matter what you do, someone will whine.

Anonymous said...

Message to Best & Less, fear not.

"Beware of those who cry racism, for they are the true racists..."

Anonymous said...

But - are these young women even negroes?
They could be anything from Pacific Islander to Phillipino from what I can tell.
Any - if so - how is the watermelon thing an issue, even if it were in the USA? Is no-one with any skin tone other than pure white allowed to eat watermelon?

Anonymous said...

Hey. I like watermelon. Does that make me a negro? Where da fried chicken?