Ralph Lauren got a kick in the pants over a pair of their trousers.
Recently, website Watch the Yard reported that the clothing brand sold a pair of chinos on their French website that featured the Greek letters of Phi Beta Sigma, a fraternity founded at Howard University — a historically black college in Washington, D.C.
After the story went viral, a Change.org petition was created, demanding that “Ralph Lauren do the right thing and RECALL, DESTROY, & PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE for trying to capitalize off of Black Culture!”
On Wednesday’s live episode of “The Real,” hosts Loni Love, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Adrienne Houghton, Jeannie Mai and Amanda Seales discussed the article of clothing, which retailed for 299.99 euros (about $334 U.S. dollars).
To begin, Loni brought up the importance of companies having a diverse staff to help prevent these kind of controversies.
“We always say on this show that a lot of these corporations need a ‘Jamal,’” the comedian noted. “A ‘Jamal the Intern’ to actually educate them, and this is another example of why you need a ‘Jamal’ working at your corporation.”
When Mowry-Housley asked Seales, “Do you think they knew what they were doing?” she responded, “No, but I think oftentimes that is the problem with privilege.”
“It’s this bubble that a lot of folks live in where they’re not even curious on, ‘Is this something we may not know about?’” the “Insecure” actress explained. “And that’s why it is important to have ‘Jamal the Intern’ and representatives of other ethnicities in the mix.”
Mai noted that “every person in design knows that the one rule you really gotta stick to is, it’s all in the details.”
“The details really matter to make something significant, even like a little button off of the jean defines it from Good American to a Polo jean,” Jeannie added.
Andrea Hence Evans, a legal representative for the fraternity, said on Tuesday the organization was “shocked and appalled” that the fashion house would violate Phi Beta Sigma’s trademarks without consent. Evans also revealed her firm launched an investigation into the matter.
The Ralph Lauren Corporation later apologized for using the letters and has removed the pants from all retail outlets.
“The use of these symbols on our products was an oversight for which we deeply apologize. We are immediately taking action to remove the product from our sales channels,” the company’s statement read. “While we have a rigorous review process in place for all of our designs, this has prompted us to take another review of our protocols to help ensure that this does not happen again.”
The business added, “As an American brand with more than 50 years of heritage, Ralph Lauren is inspired by many facets of American culture. As part of this, we are firmly committed to respectful and appropriate use of all cultural icons and insignias.”
Per Watch the Yard, the company has reached out to the fraternity.