Apparently these garments are Latino, can you tell?
It took me a little while to fully process the unbridled bad-bonkersness of this one. One night recently I was casually perusing the Topshop website with my roommate–I think we were in the ’Calypso’ collection–when we came across a top with an interesting product name–“Aztec Print Latino Suntop.” Wrong on so many levels, the cropped tank features a front button placket and sweet heart neckline with two sets of straps. This particular top was in a blue geometric pattern that apparently has something to do with Aztecs? We just didn’t see it. My initial reaction to the whole thing was disappointment. As a big fan of Topshop, it really bums me out to see this kind of blatantly poor management and decision making on the part of the brand. But also, knowing how these things worked, we knew that if there was one of these issues, there were probably more to be found. Dumbfounded, my roomie and I did a quick search on the e-retailer’s site for the offending term, and discovered just how many variations on the tops there were. Thirteen different colors and prints, ranging from an (offensive in and of itself) leopard and rose print to petal pink, black and multiple colorways of the aforementioned ’Aztec.’ We also discovered a pair of heels that shared the “LATINO” moniker, only this time IN ALL CAPS because they’re apparently SUPER Latino, I guess? The offending shoes are five and a half inch platform stilettos with a faux snake heel and red, pink, black and white upper. When I showed the shoes to a friend, she gasped and said “this is the equivalent of when people call Latina women ’spicy.'” Is a prevalent and wildly offensive stereotype at the root of this gaff? Your guess is as good as ours, but we’re going to say yes, probably. All in all, the garments themselves are innocuous enough, but the fact that these bright, summery pieces require a racialized product name is something that we need to discuss. Also, there is not a single comment about the problematic name in the product reviews. What gives, Topshoppers?
Urban apparently hasn’t learned it’s lesson about carrying ’Navajo’ products.
Photo: Urban Outfitters
Unfortunately, mass retailers being thoughtless (or intentional) racists in both their product names and the products themselves is well worn territory. Need we forget the Urban Outfitters naughty ramen noodles? Or that time the Navajo Nation sued the retailer for calling printed socks and underwear ’Navajo?’ Granted, the Navajo thing was part racism and part copyright infringement, as the word ’Navajo’ is trademarked, but it was also just plain stupid. Shockingly, a search on the UO site shows that they’re STILL selling a garment with the offending name, this time the ’Valle Navajo Beach Pant,’ designed by Australian surf label Tallow. WHY URBAN, WHY?! The implication that clothing sold in mall stores can possess a racial, ethnic or national identity, is simply absurd, deeply problematic and cringe-inducing. Yes, people do use their clothing as an extension and expression of their identity, that’s part of what makes fashion awesome! But no, they don’t need marketers to assign clothing to them, or to imply, explicitly or implicitly, that certain items represent certain people or groups.
Also, and this is a technicality, albeit a SUPER OBVIOUS ONE: why did they decide to call the items “Latino?” Being women’s garments, wouldn’t the correct (still not correct, still wrong) name be “Latina?” This first, most glaring, totally obvious screw up on the part of whatever troubled human made this decision is almost enough to render the whole thing too mind shatteringly ignorant to even be worth discussing, but actually, it makes it so much worse.
What do you guys think Topshop should do about these items? Do you think it’s ok to call a piece of clothing ’Latino?’Are there any other products out there with names that you find troubling?