In Defense Of Urban Outfitters

We have a mostly-love-little-bit-of-hate relationship with Urban Outfitters, but on the whole, we’re kinda bored with and perplexed by the number of fashion-y people we know who think the store deserves to go up in flames the way it’s SoHo location did earlier today.

Yes, from time to time, either the buyers or the executives who are in charge of the store make embarrassing, protest-inspring, lawsuit-bringing gaffes. We’ve covered a few of those not-so-great moments, and even thought about boycotting — sorry, girlcotting — the store at one point or another. But what powerful company, within fashion or without, hasn’t pissed someone off at one point or another?

Yes, the fact that URBN’s president Richard Hayne supports homophobic politicians and that shirt that encouraged anorexia made us cringe. But none of the store’s missteps make it any less on point in terms of trend spotting — and even trend creating. Let’s be honest — we all got our plimsolls from Urban.

But any store can put fashion on the shelf. It takes real skill to make it accessible to those of us who don’t have much money to spend on clothes but still want to stay on trend. And Urban affords so many of us that opportunity — Shades of Greige, Micah Cohen‘s line of ultra chic clothing, would still only be sold in a few boutiques if Urban hadn’t carried it all over the country.

And while other brands that aim to sell high-fashion at low prices (ahem, Forever21 and H&M) use their well-oiled supply chains to make copies of runway knockouts, Urban Outfitters’ buying strategy is such that its in-house labels have to be a little more creative with new trends in order to keep up with the other trendy garments the store serves up every season.

Which is why we so often end up forgiving the Urban Outfitters’ transgressions. It’s been called racist, sexist, classist and prejudiced, but we chalk most of that up to the store’s buyers and IT people making really, really bad jokes and not anticipating such bad responses. And all the same, fashion and controversy go hand in hand.

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