Anthropologie, the retailer owned by Urban Outfitters known for its overly dainty selection of candles and cardigans, has been accused of profiling customers and not paying black content creators for their work.
As first reported by the Instagram fashion watchdog account @DietPrada, Anthropologie’s June 1 Instagram post—a Maya Angelou quote and caption calling for “equality and empathy”—quickly became a place for former employees and shoppers to detail their experiences in stores.
Black customers wrote about being followed around by hovering salespeople while shopping, and staff across the country and Canada alleged that management had a code name for people of color. “How are you going to stop racially profiling your ‘Nickys’?” one wrote.
“I thought Chicago was the only ones [sic] who used ‘Nick’ as a form of saying ‘watch that black woman who just walked in.’ Fucking shame,” another former employee wrote.
In response on June 2 (also known as “Blackout Tuesday” on social media) Anthropologie announced it would close stores. “We’re committed to doing better—to being better—and it starts right now,” an Instagram graphic read.
Anthropologie also pledged a $100,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund. (The company did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.)
As @DietPrada also noted, the queer black model and content creator Lydia Okello shared screenshots of a conversation they had with an Anthropologie producer in May. (Okello uses they/them pronouns.)
The producer wanted to recruit Okello for an online campaign celebrating Pride Month, but when Okello gave their freelance rates, the producer said there was “no budget.”
“We need to hold brands accountable to their lip service,” Okello wrote. “In fact, with BLM being a ‘hot topic’ to a lot of corporations, this is going to happen FREQUENTLY. Folks will want to capitalize on Black bodies & Black labor for the lowest possible price, as they have for several hundred years.”
Emmy Rossum, an actress who starred in the Showtime series Shameless, voiced her anger in a tweet that read, “Also @UrbanOutfittrs and @FreePeople—I am now sorry that I wore so many of your stupid bralets in Shameless. I’m disgusted by your culture.”
On Wednesday, the brand again took to Instagram to address the growing backlash.
“You may have seen that we have been challenged to be more transparent, unbiased, and fair in our stores and with our business practices,” a post read. The post went on to deny the allegation that stores used any term to profile shoppers “based on their race or ethnicity.”
Any employee found engaging in such behavior, the post said, would be subject to discipline “which may include termination.” The post added that sometimes “methods of compensation” for influencers “include product, a financial payment, or a combination of both.”
Again, employees flooded the comments section, accusing the brand of lying to customers by denying the code name anecdotes.
“I literally worked in your flagship store in NYC and was instructed to use this phrase,” one wrote. “Not a surprise that you would blatantly lie but still a bummer now that you’d like to be considered woke.”