Coding Clothes

My timelines are currently full of images of this top, along with comments criticizing and questioning Spanish fashion retailer, Zara’s sense and sensitivity. Bad taste or bandwagon? Word on the street is that this top for children is too close in design to the pyjamas issued by the Nazis to concentration camp prisoners. Sure, we have stripes. And yup, there’s a star too. With the word ‘sheriff’ written on it.

Those of you with an eagle eye will spot that the stripes in question here are in fact horizontal, and anyone with a basic historical knowledge of WWII knows that the stripes forced upon thousands of innocents were vertical. In fact, this top evokes the holocaust in the same way Christian Louboutin is an ardent communist supporter. But then, I suppose bandwagons are fun to jump on, especially when something so controversial is at the centre, and this isn’t the first time Zara has caused outrage in an on behalf of the Jewish community; let’s not forget the swastika bag debacle of 2007. That aside, this particular tee shirt bares more resemblance to the traditional depiction of an inmate’s uniform in a legal prison than to 20th century torture chambers, raising an entirely different question; why on earth has a sheriff retained his badge after being sent to prison? One can only assume that Zara is catering to penny pinching parents by allowing their children to play wild west and cops and robbers seamlessly without so much as a costume change.

Zara isn’t the only fashion retailer to have found itself on the wrong side of the internet’s opinion in the past week for perceived offensive connotations. Mere days after the murder of journalist James Foley, Ann Summers launched a lingerie range named ‘Isis’. Obviously this wasn’t named after a certain Islamic militant group but instead after the Ancient Egyptian goddess of mothers and nature. Unlike Zara, who pulled the top from shelves, Ann Summers simply issued an apology for any offence caused but stated quite clearly that they would not be pulling it, nor changing the name. This is a decision that should be applauded; yes, ISIS is the abbreviated name given to the Syrian Government and Islamic State, but first and foremost it was the name of a goddess and of course a river in Oxford. Why on earth should the name be appropriated by evil with no refund option available? When I read the Harry Potter books for the first time, I found it strange that Voldemort was constantly referred to as ‘he who must not be named’, as if not mentioning the name of one who encompasses the fear of a society suppresses the force. It doesn’t, as was proven in most of Rowling’s later books. Isis is a very appropriate name for a lingerie range. It evokes beauty, femininity and gentleness, indeed everything that the recently prolific ISIS is not. 

Of course fashion can be, and has been used many times to make political statements, but this isn’t always the case. If Zara had thought for a second an innocently designed top for a child would cause outrage, it would never had produced it for fear of damaging its reputation and losing profits. Ann Summers chose the name for its bras months ago, before the majority of people had any idea who or what ISIS stood for. Fashion should be enjoyed and played with, not examined and analysed as if it were a long-lost play of the Bard. Sometimes, there is no deeper meaning or political statements. 



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