Tee shirts have long been a medium exploited for their ability to shock, amuse, propagate, advertise and entertain. But when is a simple message emblazoned on a simple cotton garment no longer so simple? When the potential for widespread hurt, upset, embarrassment or offense occurs (hint: if you're a member of the Kool Kids Klub, probably not such a good idea to print up a tee using just the initials). And that's the situation Stolen Girlfriends Club recently found themselves in after showing what they thought was an innocent slogan tee at New Zealand Fashion Week. Reading: 'I BELONG TO THE STOLEN Generation', the tee shirt immediately raised the eyebrows of Australian media at the event.
For those who don't know, the 'Stolen Generation' refers to Australian children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who were taken from their parents and trained in mission schools over a period of 100 years spanning 1869-1969. It is obviously an incredibly sensitive chapter in Australian history.
When questioned about the meaning behind the tee shirt, Stolen Girlfriends Club designer Marc Moore confessed that neither he nor his fellow designers had known the significance of the term, and, according to Patty Huntington, were "horrified to learn what it meant in Australia." They immediately canned the tee shirt, changing the slogan to: 'I BELONG TO THE BROKEN Generation'.
In Stolen Girlfriends Club's defense (and to the best of my knowledge), that aspect of Australian history is not taught in New Zealand schools, nor is it the subject of frequent newscasts. I myself had never heard the term before watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence about five years ago, and have never heard it again until seeing this tee shirt.
Australia is a swiftly growing market for Stolen Girlfriends Club – this Thursday night they are launching their jewellery collection in Sydney at an event attended by upwards of 250 key Australian media and guests.
According to Marc Moore,
"We changed [the tee shirt] because it would have been incredibly insensitive to run it. Australia is one of our main markets and it’s close to home, so we want to make friends – not enemies. Sure our brand can be cheeky at times, but only as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone."Kudos to Stolen Girlfriends Club for manning up and immediately pulling the tee shirt. In a situation such as this, there's little else that can be done.
I'm flying out to Sydney tomorrow evening and will be tweeting live from the SGC event. Click here to follow me on Twitter.
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