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Anthropologie Responds to Accusations of Racial Profiling

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  • After Anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote on Instagram, numerous people claiming to be current or former employees accused the brand of racial profiling customers and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black people who go into their stores.
  • A few days later, Anthropologie said it was supporting the Black community through measures like diversifying its workforce and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 
  • That post also received backlash from users who called on the store to address the accusations levied against it.
  • On Thursday, Anthropologie posted another statement, denying that it used a codeword and saying the company has a “zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling.”

Accusations Against Anthropologie 

Anthropologie, the upscale clothing retailer owned by Urban Outfitters, is being accused of racially profiling customers after promoting inclusivity on social media.

The allegations first surfaced on June 1 when the brand posted a quote from Maya Angelou about diversity. 

Numerous people who said they were either current or former employees at Anthropologie stores in multiple U.S. cities and Canada responded to the post, accusing the company of racial profiling and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black customers.

Many of the responses were screenshotted and uploaded in a post by the fashion watchdog Diet Prada.

“How are you going to stop racially profiling your [Nicks]?” one user wrote. “I worked at Anthropologie and the racial profiling was sickening. So many times the management told us to watch people of color over the headsets.” 

“I thought Chicago was the only ones who used ‘Nick” as a form of saying ‘watch that black woman who just walked in,’” another responded.

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Another day, another boho Karen retailer showing their true shades of beige. Last week, @anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote in splashy colors as a “call for equality”. With any mention of the #BlackLivesMatter movement absent, Angelou’s words could be interpreted more along the lines of “All lives matter”, lest Anthro offend their primary target audience. In the comment section, oblivious fans clamored for it to be released as a t-shirt or a poster. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Also in the comment section— claims of deep discriminatory practices. The code names different retailers have used to profile POC shoppers have come to light in lawsuits over the years—Moschino’s “Serena”, Zara’s “special order”, or Versace’s “D410” (the merchandise color code they use for black shirts)—but Anthropologie’s is maybe the most insidious yet. Comments from multiple employees confirm that stores in California, Chicago, Seattle, NYC and Canada use the code name “Nick” to refer to Black shoppers. Associates report being told to watch Black shoppers, and Black shoppers also commented confirming having been followed while shopping in their stores. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anthropologie followed up with a post of a black square and then some promises of action they’ll take. At the same time, more hypocrisy was taking place at the corporate level. While the retailer was posting about committing to diversifying their workforce, they were at the same time asking POC for free labor. On May 26th, Queer Black creator Lydia Okello ( @styleisstyle ) was approached by a producer to potentially partake in Anthro’s #sliceofhappy Pride month campaign in exchange for a free outfit. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Okello replied with their typical rates and ended up getting trapped in a back and forth volley with no resolution after being told there was no budget for an influencer of their level (22.8k followers). For a campaign aimed to express what happiness means, surely they could’ve anticipated that no one, especially in a month meant to celebrate them, is happy to work for free. • #blacklivesmatter #blm #anthropologie #anthropologiehome #anthro #retail #codename #work #free #influencer #microinfluencer #labor #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:58pm PDT

Other users also criticized the post as vague, empty, and failing to actually address the Black Lives Matter movement. Those remarks, along with calls for the affluent company to donate money, were also echoed in comments on a post made by the store the next day for “Blackout Tuesday.”

Several days later, Anthropologie responded with an Instagram post where it promised to stand with and support the Black community by diversifying its workforce, expanding its diversity and anti-discriminating training, and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 

The post did not mention the allegations of racial discrimination, which prompted more backlash and calls for the retailer to address the accusations.

Anthropologie’s Official Response 

Anthropologie finally responded to the allegations on Thursday in another Instagram post.

“You may have seen that we have been challenged to be more transparent, unbiased, and fair in our stores and with our business practices,” the statement begins. 

Regarding allegations of racial profiling, we have never and will never have a code word based on a customer’s race or ethnicity,” it continued. “Our company has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling in any form. Employees who do not adhere to this policy are subject to disciplinary action which may include termination.”

The statement also addressed accusations brought by a Black model and content creator named Lydia Okello, who posted screenshots of a conversation they had with an Anthropologie producer who had recruited them for a campaign celebrating Pride Month.

Okello said that when they provided their freelance rates, the producer said there was “no budget,” and that instead they would be given “one gifted look.” 

“‘No Budget’ means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person,” Okello wrote. 

“This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry,” they continued. “We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?”⠀

“But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with ‘no budget’. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements.”

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On May 26th, I was contacted by a producer at @anthropologie to take part in a Pride campaign. I responded with my rates for the campaign requirements. The response was that there was no budget, but that the producer would be happy to email to discuss rates.⠀ ⠀ The email was a longer pitch, including a request for an advertisement on my Instagram page and 3-5 images for them to use wherever they would like. With no budget. ⠀ ⠀ The above are screenshots from our conversation, including a “nudge” in my DMs this week to respond to the email requests for free labour.⠀ ⠀ Throughout the interaction, I stated my price and was met with no compensation. “No Budget” means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person. Only after many messages/emails was there acknowledgement that I should be compensated. Even in that response, there was gaslighting. I stated my fees from the very first message.⠀ ⠀ This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?⠀ ⠀ I’ve been “paid” in exposure numerous times in the last 12 years as a style blogger. Which I now refuse to do. But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with “no budget”. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements. Seems timely, no?⠀ ⠀ We need to hold brands accountable to their lip service. 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 labour for the lowest price possible, as they have for several hundred years. ⠀ ⠀ The final slide is a post from June 5 on the brand page. When Anthropologie says “black lives do matter” what does that mean? When they plan to diversify their workforce, is it this free Black labour?⠀ ⠀ #payblackcreatives #MyAnthropologie

A post shared by LYDIA OKELLO | they/them (@styleisstyle) on Jun 7, 2020 at 8:20am PDT

Interestingly, Anthropologie appeared to validate Okello’s claim that they were told they would only be compensated in product, though it did not refer to them by name.

“In the case of influencers, our methods of compensation include product, financial payment, or a combination of both,” the company wrote.

Many users responded by condemning the post as defensive and generic, and some accused the retailer of lying.

“This is some straight BS, SAVE IT,” one user wrote. “You’re only posting this to save your company after people finally spoke out. I’m so over companies trying to make up for their LONG history of racial bias. You support and stand with things when it’s convenient for you!”

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Daily Beast) (USA Today)

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Charli D’Amelio’s Dunkin’ Partnership Proves Successful

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  • TikTok’s most-followed creator, Charli D’Amelio, partnered with the coffee chain Dunkin’ to add her go-to order to its menu for a limited time.  
  • A Dunkin’ official told TMZ that the chain sold hundreds of thousands of her signature drink, “The Charli,” within the first five days of launching. It also set a record for daily users on the Dunkin’ app the first day of the launch after seeing a 57% increase in app downloads. 
  • Dunkin’ even saw a 20% sales boost for all cold brews that day as well as a 45% surge the following day. 
  • This collaboration, along with musician Travis Scott’s partnership with McDonald’s, has many interested to see if and how more chains will use big names as marketing tools in the future. 

The Charli 

Officials at Dunkin’ have finally given some insight into just how powerful its partnership with 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio has been for the coffee chain. 

D’Amelio, of course, is TikTok’s most famous personality, and she recently teamed up with Dunkin’ to get her go-to coffee order on its menu for a limited time. The drink is called “The Charli,” a cold brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel swirl.

It officially debuted in stores on Sept. 2. As part of the partnership, she also launched a contest with the chain. For that, the company invited her fans to post a picture on Instagram, recreating a memorable moment of Charli and her Dunkin’ drink using the hashtag #CharliXDunkinContest. Then, on Sept. 19, National Dance Day, five lucky winners were selected to join a virtual hang out with Charli. 

It was probably fair to assume that the drink would be a success given Charli’s massive following and influence these days. She’s currently sitting at 88.4 million followers on TikTok alone. and the drink has been spotted all over the app, with fans, friends, and influencers trying it out themselves.

However, Drayton Martin, vice president of brand stewardship at Dunkin’, just confirmed to TMZ that the chain sold hundreds of thousands of the signature drink within the first five days of launch. Dunkin’ also set a record for daily users on its app the day her drink debuted after seeing a 57% increase in app downloads. 

Apparently it wasn’t just “The Charli” that saw success. Dunkin’ also saw a 20% sales boost for all cold brews the first day as well as a 45% surge the next day. 

Travis Scott’s McDonald’s Deal 

These numbers are especially interesting to look at when acknowledging how lucrative Travis Scott’s limited edition collab with McDonald’s has proved to be. His partnership was for a $6 combo that included a Quarter Pounder with bacon and lettuce, fries, BBQ sauce, and a Sprite. 

That launched on Sept. 9, and he also sold some exclusive Mcdonald’s themed merch on his website at the time. 

Within days of the launch, several McDonald’s locations reported running out of ingredients to make the meals. In a memo sent to employees, McDonald’s said: “We’ve created a program that’s so compelling to our customers that it’s stretching our world-class supply chain; and if demand continues at these levels, more restaurants will break supply.”

Tons of people have been trying to get their hands on this meal. In fact, it even became a trend on TikTok to order it using a range of phrases. According to USA Today, McDonald’s even noted some of the various ways customers have been ordering the meal in their memo to employees. Some were part of marketing and social media materials for it, like the phrase “Say Cactus Jack sent me.”

Other variations include “It’s lit, sick mode,” “The Fornite guy burger,” or “You know why I’m here” which is often followed by customers playing Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” 

Eventually, McDonald’s said the promotion will continue through Oct. 4 as scheduled. However, starting Sept. 22, customers who want the meal have to order it through the McDonald’s app. So maybe that will intentionally slow sales, or perhaps downloads for that app soar as it did for Dunkin’ with D’Amelio’s help.

Ultimately, both collaborations have shown just how influential big names can be in the fast food and drink world. It’ll be interesting to see if and how chains will continue to use people with massive followings as advertising tools in the future. 

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (USA Today) (Chicago Sun Times

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Twitter to Investigate Auto-Crop Algorithm After Accusations of Racial Bias

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  • Twitter users believe they discovered a racial bias in an algorithm the platform uses to automatically select which part of an image it shows in a photo preview.
  • Many argued that the auto-cropping tool showed a white bias after testing the theory with photos of Black and white people, cartoon characters, and even dogs. 
  • However, others who tested the theory generated results that did not support this idea. Regardless, most users admit that these experiments have their limitations and agree that the current results at least show that this is something worth looking into.
  • The company released a statement saying it tested its system for bias in the past but admitted it needs to conduct further analysis of it. Online, Twitter employees seemed to welcome the public discourse and the company promised to share its results as well as further actions it may take.

Potential White Bias 

Twitter responded to concerns over its automatic cropping algorithm Sunday after users believed they discovered a racial bias in the tool.

In 2018, Twitter began auto-cropping photos in its timeline previews to prevent them from taking up too much space in the main feed and to allow multiple photos to appear in the same tweet. To do this, the company uses several algorithmic tools that focus on the most important part of the picture, like faces or text. 

However, users recently began to spot issues with the algorithm. The first person credited for highlighting a potential problem was PhD student Colin Madland. He made his discovery while highlighting a different racial bias he thinks he found on the video-conference company Zoom. 

Madland tweeted that when his Black colleague uses a virtual background on Zoom, his head is erased. When he uploaded examples to show this happening to his Black colleague and not himself, he noticed that Twitter was only showing his own face in its preview. 

Soon after, others followed up with more targetted experiments. Cryptographic and infrastructure engineer Tony Arcieri, for example, tweeted out two long images with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Former President Barack Obama. 

The two photos have the politicians stacked on top of each other in different orders but with white space in between them. The experiment showed that Twitter would focus on McConnell, no matter what order the photos were stacked in.

Another user found that the algorithm even focused on McConnell when two photos of Obama were present in a single stack.

A similar white preference appeared in examples of Black and white men in suits, Simpsons characters Lenny and Carl, and even black and white dogs. 

Examples That Don’t Support White Bias Theory

Others looking into this theory of a white bias found results that did not support the idea. 

For example, one user found that photos of Obama were cropped for the preview over photos of Donald Trump. 

Still, some researching the trends noted that these experiments do have their limitations and are likely influenced by tons of other factors. Some believe the algorithm recognized high profile figures or considers brightness and contrast, among other photo elements.

Twitter’s Chief Design Officer (CDO), Dantley Davis, even suggested that the choice of cropping sometimes takes brightness of the background into consideration.

However, ohers found examples that rejected that idea. Regardless, all these tests did a lot to convince people that there was something worth looking at here, including Davis, who has been experimenting himself.

He’s not alone in his research. In fact, plenty of other Twitter users have been going to great lengths to track their results as they try to study what is going on.

Twitter Promises to Investigate 

On Sunday, a Twitter spokesperson eventually released a statement admitting that the company had work to do.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” the company explained.

But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate.” 

Davis also isn’t the only employee that has appeared to welcome all of this public discourse. The company’s Chief Technology Officer, Parag Argawal tweeted, “This is a very important question. To address it, we did analysis on our model when we shipped it, but needs continuous improvement. Love this public, open, and rigorous test — and eager to learn from this.”

See what others are saying; (The Next Web) (The Guardian) (Mashable

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Perfume Brand Apologizes for Replacing John Boyega in the Chinese Version of an Ad He Directed

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  • Jo Malone London, a perfume and candle brand, apologized to its global brand ambassador John Boyega after it reshot his personal advert without him for the Chinese market.
  • Last year, Boyega conceived, starred in, and directed a commercial for the band, which showcased his friends and family and was shot in his diverse hometown on Peckham, London.
  • Without Boyega’s knowledge, the company replicated the concept with Chinese actor Liu Haoran and did not feature a single Black person in the remake. 
  • After backlash, Jo Malone London apologized and said, “The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”

Boyega’s Commercial 

The perfume and candle brand Jo Malone London apologized to actor John Boyega after it replicated the personal advert he made for the company without him for the Chinese market.

In 2019, the brand named the Star Wars actor its first male global ambassador. Under the role, Boyega shot an advert for the company based on his roots and personal experiences. 

The short film was called, “A London Gent,” and according to several reports, it was his creative concept and a project he directed. It showcased him enjoying time with his real-life friends and family in his diverse hometown of Peckham, London.

“There’s a mixture of things you see me do in the film, you see me in a professional environment on a film set, then with family and it’s about breaking free of the concept of ‘going back or returning to your roots’ but more about the roots existing with this new side of my life,” he said of the commercial last year in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.

Chinese Remake

The commercial was well received and actually won Best Media Campaign at The Fragrance Foundation Awards this year. Still, the brand decided to essentially replicate the commercial for the Chinese market without Boyega’s knowledge or participation.

Instead of just using Boyega’s original ad, it replaced him with Chinese actor Liu Haoran, star of the hugely popular Detective Chinatown film franchise. Boyega’s friends and family were replaced as well, which means there was not a single Black person included in the Chinese ad.

Though it’s not totally identical, it’s clear the commercial reused the same concept –minus the diversity elements. It even replicates some specific scenes like one where the camera zooms into Boyega’s eye and another where he rides a horse while his friends ride bikes.

On top of all that, the Chinese ad is also called “A London Gent,” and according to The Hollywood Reporter, Boyega only found out about this after it was put on Twitter.

Boyega hasn’t officially commented on the issue, but he’s definitely aware of the backlash. He retweeted one user who shared his ad saying, “Now, this man needs to be properly compensated for the thievery! No apology is good enough.”

He also retweeted a post showing the Chinese ad for comparison, as well as an article from The Hollywood Reporter on the topic. 

That article includes a statement from the brand which reads: “We deeply apologize for what, on our end, was a mistake in the local execution of the John Boyega campaign. John is a tremendous artist with great personal vision and direction. The concept for the film was based on John’s personal experiences and should not have been replicated.”

Joe Malone also apologized to Haoran, saying he was not involved in the conception of the Chinese ad.

“While we immediately took action and removed the local version of the campaign, we recognize that this was painful and that offense was caused,” it continued.

We respect John, and support our partners and fans globally. We are taking this misstep very seriously and we are working together as a brand to do better moving forward.”

Boyega’s Past Experiences

This is not the first time Boyega has sparked discussions about racism in China and the entertainment industry. In 2015, when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released, Boyega’s character was resized to be significantly smaller on the Chinese version of the movie poster.  

In a recent GQ interview, Boyega also criticized Disney, saying nonwhite characters were pushed aside in the Star Wars franchise while white characters were given more nuance. 

“What I would say to Disney is do not bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up,” he said at the time.  

As for Jo Malone, it has pulled the Chinese advert, but it’s unclear if Boyega’s relationship with the brand will continue. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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