STOKING FIRE: Urban Outfitters Practices Withdrawal Without “Proper Attire”


As the world commemorated the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th, Urban Outfitters was quietly dropping incendiary news of a different sort. Eschewing a glitzy ad campaign, the retail giant simply began selling Proper Attire condoms online. The decision to offer the latex prophylactic was announced on the store’s Facebook page:

“Hello from Urban Outfitters. We are delighted that Proper Attire is now available in your fave lifestyle store! Isn’t that marvelous? Please support Planned Parenthood and buy a pack today.”

According to a Planned Parenthood Federation of America [PPFA] spokeswoman, Proper Attire is its own corporate entity, but the condoms were designed—and are now sold—with the express purpose of raising funds for PPFA’s reproductive healthcare programs. Launched in late 2007, Proper Attire products are geared to women, specifically club-going twenty-and-thirty somethings.

“Proper Attire condoms are for every woman who wants to protect herself and her partner. Unlike other condom brands, every element of Proper Attire condoms has been inspired by the world of fashion, from the Proper Attire brand name and the chic packaging created by fashion designers, to the fig leaf logo,” their website boasts. “They were created specifically for the fashion-conscious woman who values style and quality.”

Thankfully, the site does more than pander to fashionistas and offers explicit information on condom use, from how to put one on to what to do if it slips or breaks during intercourse. Information on Emergency Contraception is provided alongside an 800 number that links readers with a Planned Parenthood facility in their area—not just for EC but for general well-woman care, cancer screenings, and other forms of birth control. The tag line says it all: “Don’t let embarrassment become a health risk.”

Needless to say, the anti-abortion/anti-contraception/anti-choice Right went ballistic when news of Urban Outfitters latest offering surfaced. According to Rita Diller, National Director of STOP Planned Parenthood, a project of the 31-year-old, Virginia-based, American Life League, on Monday, August 9 an ALL associate informed the group that Urban Outfitters was selling Proper Attire condoms on its website.

What happened next boggles the mind. On August 11—two days after learning about the condoms’ availability—Diller emailed STOP PP supporters, urging them to contact Urban Outfitters to let them know that they objected to the company’s fundraising for PPFA. The email was widely reposted by dozens of local anti-choice and church groups and by major national organizations including the Alliance Defense Fund, Women of Grace, and catholicnewsline.com.

The next day, Urban Outfitters pulled Proper Attire from its catalog, telling shoppers searching for the product that it was no longer available.

Diller and her STOP Planned Parenthood allies are, of course, tickled pink by this development. “Retailers should take note that, if they choose to partner with Planned Parenthood or sell any of Planned Parenthood’s products or services, there is a vast network of parents across the country who are ready and willing to protect their children,” Diller wrote in an email.

“These parents want their teens to respect their sexuality and remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Parents want to know that they can allow their teens to browse a youth-oriented retailer’s website without being exposed to Planned Parenthood’s sexually oriented merchandise.”

And Planned Parenthood? According to PPFA, the decision to sever ties between the reproductive health group and Urban Outfitters had little to do with anti-abortion backlash and was instead a mutual business decision. “It was a test partnership, meant to last 30 days online,” a spokeswoman told me. “When our supporters learned of it, they questioned the decision to partner with Urban Outfitters because the company is known to lean conservative.”

Indeed. Urban Outfitters’ founder and current board chair, Richard Hayne—number 317 on Forbes’ 2009 list of richest Americans and the 773rd richest person in the world—has a net worth of $1.8 billion and is a highly visible contributor to rightwing politicians and causes.  According to New York Magazine, Hayne “supports Senators who vote for legislation against gay marriage” and his inner circle includes the likes of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. This certainly makes one wonder why Hayne, and the company he represents, agreed to sell Proper Attire in the first place. [Despite repeated attempts to reach the company, no one responded to my calls or emails.]

Then again, Urban Outfitters has repeatedly offered—and then pulled—products that rankle consumers. To wit: in 2003 a board game created by the company, Ghettopoly, was criticized by the NAACP and civil rights activists; that same year an “Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl” tee-shirt with a border of dollar signs was denounced by the Anti-Defamation League; and last May, a shirt with the message “eat less,” modeled by a rail-thin woman, was slammed for promoting anorexia and other eating disorder.

Perhaps it’s just a question of the doing what’s best for the bottom line and on that score Urban Outfitters is unquestionably a winner. Last fiscal year, sales totaled more than $1.9 billion and the company has expanded to add Anthropologie, Terrain, and Free People to its portfolio.

Meanwhile, Proper Attire condoms—marketed with playful raciness: “Proper Attire: Insist on a dress code. It’s required for entry”–are available through Planned Parenthood and Babeland and can be ordered from condomcountry.com and quikcondoms.com. They’re also sold in several high-end hotels and boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, DC, and the Hamptons with all proceeds benefitting PPFA.

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  • kevin-rahe

    “Don’t let embarrassment become a health risk.”

     

    How about, “Don’t let lack of self-control become a health risk.”

     

    Sheesh.

  • jayn

    I have enough self-control to use a condom, and little enough embarassment to ask the clerk to unlock them for me :P

  • kevin-rahe

    Go directly back to first comment.

  • kevin-rahe

    like a sundial equals a Rolex.  You can only count on it working some of the time.  It’s clearly not recommend for someone who wants to be absolutely sure they don’t contract an STI or get pregnant.

  • prochoiceferret

    You can only count on it working some of the time.  It’s clearly not recommend for someone who wants to be absolutely sure they don’t contract an STI or get pregnant.

     

    You can only count on seat belts working some of the time.  It’s clearly not recommend (sic) for someone who wants to be absolutely sure they don’t become paralyzed or die in a car accident.

  • prochoiceferret

    This certainly makes one wonder why [uber-conservative] Hayne, and the company he represents [Urban Outfitters], agreed to sell Proper Attire in the first place.

     

    You can say that again. How did PPFA ever get involved with this outfit to begin with?

  • jayn

    A sundial works better than nothing, and you might well want one if having a Rolex has already been eliminated from the equation.

     

    (BTW, between me and my mother, condom sucess rate has been 100% so far)

  • beenthere72
  • prochoicekatie

    Kevin -

    While it is increasingly apparent that you don’t share the same position on issues that this site values (read their About Us section), I am unsure why you oppose condom use.

    The average women does not want to have more than two children, but will be fertile for approximately 25 years. She will need to use birth control.

    Condoms are one of the few forms that are readily available to all and the responsibility is shared by both men and women.

    Furthermore, you seem to neglect the premise that married people use birth control. While your opinion on sex before marriage is just that – YOUR OPINION – not the opinion taken by MOST Americans – it should be noted that condoms can be used within marriage.

    You seem to epouse that your position is the only position of self-control. However, I can assure that the overwhelming majority of married couples do not hope for a child to result from every instances of intercourse. Even the ones who waited until marriage to have sex. Sex is wonderful – and I think it is intended to be shared more than twice in one’s lifetime.

    Please stop hating on birth control.

  • prochoicekatie
  • kevin-rahe

    You can only count on seat belts working some of the time.

     

    True, but a great number of us find driving necessary to support ourselves and our families.  That’s not true about sex (at least not for those of us with a legitimate profession).

  • prochoiceferret

    True, but a great number of us find driving necessary to support ourselves and our families.

     

    Oh, I’m sure you’ve thoroughly convinced yourself that it’s “necessary.” After all, you could take a bus. You could find employment that doesn’t require automobile transport. Or relocate to a place that lets you do that. But you’d rather get behind that wheel and floor the gas pedal, wouldn’t you? You just can’t control your urge to drive.

     

    If you get into a car, use your oh-so-protective “seat belt,” and then get into a terrible car accident, then you have only yourself to blame. Don’t let your lack of transportation self-control become a health risk!

  • colleen

    Kevin,

    So, when are you going to get a job? Or help your wife out with the heavy work? Because it’s undeniable that you’ve been spend every day, all day posting useless and boring nonsense here.

  • katwa

    You assume people have sex but don’t actually want to, and are doing it because they have no self-control.  When I have sex I am in full control of myself. Otherwise I would be fucking in the streets or something.

  • wendy-banks

    Oh, STFU troll.

  • kevin-rahe

    Married couples can choose methods of spacing or delaying children such as Natural Family Planning (NFP) that are not only perfectly natural, more successful than condoms and cheaper than any artificial contraceptive, but also enhance communication between spouses.  Unlike condoms and other artificial methods, though, no one profits from them, so they don’t get much press.

  • katwa

    hahahahaha

     

    That’s hilarious. And “perfectly natural”? What does that even mean? I’m sorry, i don’t find it very natural to measure my vaginal mucous every morning and forgo sex 2 weeks a month. It’s much more natural to me to make love with my partner whenever we are in the mood. We find it to be one of the most natural things we do, in fact, especially when we do it in the woods!

     

    You know what really isn’t natural? Cars. Clothing. Computers. Electricity. Fuel. Buildings. Going with out all that is much cheaper as well. Of course people profit from all that unnatural stuff, so naturalists don’t get much press.

  • jayn

    You know, it might be easier to convince people to use NFP if the RCC picked better role models.  During our marriage prep, we heard from two women with fertility problems, one with four kids (only two properly planned) and one with NINE children.  Yeah, that’s gonna convince me that NFP works, being told about it by a nurse with as many kids as my grandmother.

     

    (And communication?  If you can’t communicate about sex, NFP or no, you probably shouldn’t be having it.  But that’s just me)

  • crowepps

    ‘Natural’ is remaining within 10 miles of where you were born, walking all day carrying the latest baby while gathering food, and then squatting near the fire  with the rest of the tribe, covered with fish oil to ward off the bugs, chewing on a mouthful of grain until your teeth wear down and you die ‘naturally’ at an old age of 40, having had half your children predecease you.  Give me ‘unnatural’ civilization any day. 

  • purplemistydez

    This is so awesome.  I wanna try some with my boyfriend.  LOL.  Have some good old fashion fun.  Yiiihay!!!