From lawsuits to internet outrage: The biggest brand fails of 2017

December 26, 2017

Though 2017 stood out as an outlier for fashion brands taking pointed stands and launching bold campaigns, not all of them struck a chord.

Amid a particularly heated political climate, some luxury brands found themselves embroiled in controversy for ties to the Trump administration or disgraced executives like Miramax president Harvey Weinstein. Failing to learn from past mistakes as well as those of their peers, others faced internet scorn for tone-deaf campaigns and scrambled to appease angry consumers when their products fell apart.

We took a look at some of the biggest brand fails of 2017.

Chanel boomerangs back to cultural appropriation
Fresh off 2016 backlash for holding a glitzy, ostentatious fashion show in Cuba, Chanel cashed in on yet another culture. In May, the internet was in a tizzy over a $1,300 Chanel-branded boomerang that appeared on Chanel.com as part of a collection of branded board games. Consumers — particularly those hailing from Australia, the boomerang’s country of origin — were not pleased. Many felt that the product was insensitive to Aboriginal Australians, who traditionally use boomerangs to hunt for food. Though Chanel issued a response stating it “deeply regrets that some may have felt offended,” it refused to take the boomerang down from its website.

Marchesa gets the Weinstein treatment
Hollywood wasn’t the only industry impacted by the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. Marchesa, the fashion brand founded by Weinstein’s now-estranged wife Georgina Chapman, also took heat for Weinstein’s involvement with the company. The film executive reportedly took advantage of his power, forcing actresses in his films to wear Marchesa designs to premieres and special events. Felicity Huffman, Cate Blanchett and Renée Zellweger all cited instances in which they were forced into wearing her designs. Though the brand’s future appeared to be just as murky as that of Miramax, on December 15 it announced plans to show at New York Fashion Week in February.

Nordstrom’s failed attempt to get ‘down and dirty’
Looks like Nordstrom failed to learn to steer clear of outlandish, overpriced everyday products after the leather-bound $85 rock. The department store spurred outrage when it began selling a $425 pair of men’s jeans encased in patches of fake mud. Produced by the Japanese company PRPS, the product description on the site described the pants as “Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.” As one could imagine, this didn’t settle well with American shoppers, particularly of the blue-collar variety. Within just hours, there were thousands of Twitter comments, with messages like “Muddy jeans are earned, not bought.”

Miu Miu evokes Nazi Germany
Miu Miu became the subject of ire when it debuted several products in its pre-fall collection with a yellow star sewn onto them that many felt was a nod to Nazi imagery. The stars were seen on several garments in the Prada-owned company’s latest line, which Miu Miu announced it would remove completely in response to the outcry. On Twitter, debate erupted over the validity of the arguments against Miu Miu. While some claimed the five-pointed yellow star on the Miu Miu pieces held no resemblance to the six-pointed Star of David, others argued it conjured the religious symbol Jewish residents were forced to wear by the Nazis during the Holocaust. It didn’t help that the Miu Miu stars featured the name “John,” similar to “Jude,” the German word for “Jew” which was emblazoned on the Nazi stars.

Dolce & Gabbana takes the defensive
While several brands received criticism for enthusiastically dressing First Lady Melania Trump, Dolce & Gabbana was by far the most defensive. The luxury brand decided to turn the outcry on its head and poke fun at protestors, encouraging a boycott after it dressed Melania for several events, including a diplomatic meeting in Sicily. It began selling $245 shirts that said “Boycott Dolce & Gabbana” and started a social media campaign using the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana. CEO Stefano Gabbana even shared several posts on his personal Instagram account. While some consumers got a kick out of the tongue-in-cheek response, others weren’t so enthused. “You guys think you’re so clever, but doubling down on your stupidity only makes things worse. You should own up to your mistakes,” quipped one Instagram user.

LuLaRoe gets slammed with legal action
LuLaRoe, the multi-level-marketing apparel company that largely employs suburban moms and scrappy entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck, found itself the subject of a class-action lawsuit for poor quality product. “Customers have complained that the leggings are of such poor quality that holes, tears and rips appear before wearing, during the first use or shortly thereafter,” plaintiffs Julie Dean and Suzanne Jones wrote in the lawsuit. The company is also battling legal action from its sellers, who are calling the company a pyramid scheme for its shifty payment protocols and unclear policies. Guess this means the end of the relentless requests to buy leggings from your high school geometry desk mate on Facebook.