Topshop was under fire last week after the removal of a feminist pop-up book promotion stand at their flagship Oxford Street store in London. The partnership was set up between Topshop and Penguin Publishers to promote feminist books including “Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies)” which was written in support of the UN charity, Girl Up, which focuses on preparing girls for future leadership positions. After only twenty minutes of the stand being up, the fashion retailer’s chairman, Sir Phillip Green, demanded it was taken down.
Was this snap decision made with the business’s best interests at heart or was it solely one man’s objection to a controversial subject? Many believe it is the latter and took to social media sites to express their feelings on the matter. One of these people was the author herself, Scarlett Curtis, who tweeted, “Despite definite approval from Topshop’s side, it took one powerful man coming in and deciding it was too controversial, to take the whole thing down. It was traumatising for our amazing team who were on site at the time and in my opinion is a pretty definitive example of why books like ours are still needed.” Ultimately, this incident has emphasised exactly why we need to publicise more feminist writers, in order to ensure equality of representation and free speech. Curtis then went on to express her outrage at the disregard shown by Phillip Green, warning that, “if you dismantle our store you better believe I’m coming to smash down the patriarchy in return.”
Despite the backlash, Topshop still has not confirmed the reasoning for the pop-up being taken down but have since shared a statement on Twitter which states, “Yesterday we made the decision from a production and creative standpoint to retract the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other Lies) pop-up from one of our stores. We are sorry – this in no way reflects our stance on feminism and we will be making a donation of £25,000 to Girl Up.” Although the fashion retailer attempted to address the backlash from critics, the brand sadly did not justify their decision fully, instead stating that they “continue to fully support the sentiment of the book, Scarlett Curtis, feminism and equality.” However, is this enough for the business to redeem itself without ruining their reputation?
Topshop has already reported a £10.9 million loss in the last financial year as a result of falling sales and thanks to this latest media-storm it doesn’t look like it is set to get much better for the company. Former customers also took to Twitter to reprimand the retailer for its behaviour, with comments encouraging other buyers to boycott the fashion brand. These negative reactions could suggest that the incident will take a larger toll on the company’s brand loyalty, which could lead to even greater losses in the next financial year. Overall, the action shown by the Oxford Street store to take down the feminist pop-up sent a clear message: we still need controversial writers to ask important questions and hold businesses to account for their actions.