The Wolf in Hipster’s Clothing

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With the newly opened Urban Outfitters on Green Street,
we are not only inviting yet another huge corporation to
suck money out of our community; we are also furthering
our town’s gradual corporatization. Urban Outfitters is a
unique corporation because it manages to be one of the
most successful, mainstream clothing stores in America, yet
it also maintains an independent, hip persona. This persona
is a simple facade, a way for consumers to buy into a seemingly
alternative lifestyle, but, for several reasons, this chain
is also much more deceptive than most other corporations.
The man behind the corporate conglomerate is known
for shying away from the public eye and rarely gives interviews—
why? A Conservative Republican, Richard Hayne
has donated $13,150 to the now ex-Senator Rick Santorum,
who infamously equated homosexuality with bestiality
and incest. And yet, Urban Outfitters sells several
different t-shirts endorsing Democratic presidential candidate
Barack Obama and it has also sold t-shirts with gay
pride messages such as “I like girls that like girls.” His acts
show that he is quite the antithesis to his consumer base.
By buying these products, consumers can believe that
they are advertising goodwill and supporting a company
that actually enacts it. Unfortunately, it appears that their
money is actually flowing back to people who propagate
Conservative values such as homophobia.
Not only that, Hayne has also admitted that most of
Urban Outfitters clothing is manufactured in Third World
non-union shops. It seems a purportedly alternative corporation
would be against placing orders with such infernal
factories, yet it apparently engages wholeheartedly in
such ill-gotten enhancements of their bottom line.
Urban Outfitters represents not only the fantasy of
street fashion and the lifestyle that goes with it; it also presents
itself as a suitable place for countercultural youth to
congregate. However, this is nothing more than a moneymaking
idea from the mass conglomerate’s marketing
board. For example, the Urban Outfitters on Green Street
has already hosted a local band, the Headlights. On the
surface this may seem like an act of goodwill, a way for the
company to reach out to loyal customers and become integrated
into the community. In reality, hosting such events
is just another attempt to polish up its image as a young,
hip store in order to sell even more overpriced shirts.
Another way this mainstream corporation manages to
appeal to the alternative crowd is by ripping off the
designs of independent companies and selling them in
Urban Outfitters stores across America. Over the years,
many independent companies have accused Urban Outfitters
of stealing their designs and marketing them as their
own. Some of the independents that have listed such
grievances are fairly well known, including recognizable
brand names such as Johnny Cupcakes, Crownfarmer, and
Princess Tina. Urban Outfitters’ attack on Crownfarmer
was particularly sinister. First, the company purchased a
Crownfarmer design and then when controversy erupted,
took the design off the shelves. Unfortunately, the same
design resurfaced with minor adjustments, now under the
Urban Outfitters label. The makers of the design were
never consulted or informed of the decision. They later
blatantly copied another Crownfarmer design and sold it
under the Urban Outfitters label.
With this self-serving corporation now sucking dollars
out of our own community, what can we do? One answer is
the typical grassroots approach of protest. In Vancouver, a
group operating under the name Urban Counterfeiters
launched a successful protest right outside an Urban Outfitters
by passing out pamphlets encouraging people to boycott
the business. The store agreed to pull from its shelves
the object of the protest, a Crownfarmer Canadian Maple
leaf design shirt, if the group stopped handing out pamphlets.
In 2005, a group of high school students in Santa
Cruz, California passed out flyers outside another Urban
Outfitters, encouraging boycotts because of the company’s
support of ultraconservative, homophobic Rick Santorum.
Even though Champaign-Urbana is now home to its
own Urban Outfitters, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth fighting
the conglomerate’s hypocritical practices. When we fight
Urban Outfitters, we also fight against the corporatization of
our own town, which is always a worthy cause.

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