The story behind the ‘offensive’ jumper that went viral for all the wrong reasons.

revolve-jumper

 

When a light grey sweatshirt appeared on online shopping site Revolve on Wednesday, it was supposed to start a conversation.

And it did. Just not the one it intended to.

In less than 24 hours, images of the controversial item of clothing released to raise money for girls’ education were trending online for being fat-phobic, inappropriate and deeply offensive. So much so, the jumper has since been removed from the site and can no longer be purchased.

All because of its slogan:

“Being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse.”

But how did something with such good intentions go so terribly wrong?

It was a perfect storm of unfortunate errors, perhaps the first being the jumper’s design.

The jumper was one of five in a collection designed by US fashion label LPA The Label that were meant to highlight toxic narratives involving high profile women. Proceeds from the sale of the $295 jumpers were to go to New York-based charity Girls Write Now.

In collaboration with actress Lena Dunham, the jumpers each featured an abusive comment women in the public eye – Dunham, Cara Delevigne, Emily Ratajkowski, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser – had received from trolls online.

Other slogans in the collection were to include: ‘Too boney to be boned’, ‘If you translated a bum onto her face, she’d have a better face’, ‘Horrible result of modern feminism’ and ‘Slut feminist nightmare’.

revolve jumper
The collection of five jumpers. Image: Twitter.

If you look closely at the jumpers, you'll see underneath the derogatory quotes a line in much smaller font that reads 'as told to @", to indicate which comment was made to which woman.

Then came the marketing of the jumper, which was particularly tone-deaf.

According to LPA's founder Pia Arrobio, the image of a thin, blonde, white model wearing the 'fat-shaming' jumper was never meant to appear anywhere on the internet.

In a statement shared on their Instagram account, it was instead supposed to be advertised being worn by the woman who was sent the offending comment. In the case of this jumper, it was Paloma, a plus-size model and influencer. That particular jumper was also not meant to be released before some of the others, which might have given it supporting context.

"Where we faltered was not intention, sincerity or conception, but in my own lack of communication that lead to how the collection was portrayed on Revolve.com and the pre-mature release of the e-commerce imagery, a day prior to launch. We were planning to launch with an image of Lena in the sweatshirt along with our statement and explanation," the statement read.

"We work hard to make the right choices every day, understanding the platform and the opportunity that we are lucky enough to have, and we are so sorry to have let you all down."

What was conceived as a statement on today’s internet culture and its treatment of women has gone terribly wrong.  We at LPA were so honored when Lena Dunham agreed to work with us on this capsule collection and, most importantly, thrilled at the exposure our work would give to such a serious issue.  We coordinated each aspect of the collection itself, to the chosen quotes to the design.  We were proud of our final product, the conversation it would start and – most importantly – the direct effect it would have on such an impactful charity in “Girls Write Now”. Where we faltered was not intention, sincerity or conception, but in my own lack of communication that lead to how the collection was portrayed on Revolve.com and the pre-mature release of the e-commerce imagery, a day prior to launch. We were planning to launch with an image of Lena in the sweatshirt along with our statement and explanation.  I cannot apologize enough to my good friend Lena, and others, to all of LPA’s fans.  We work hard to make the right choices every day, understanding the platform and the opportunity that we are lucky enough to have, and we are so sorry to have let you all down. We know the quotes within the collaboration were shocking, which was entirely the point. To spotlight how we've normalized the way we bully and speak negatively to one another via the internet. Given this controversy, we support Revolve.com and join them in their removal of the collection from our site.  We are also proud to make our own donation to “Girls Write Now” – in honor to their commitment to this admirable cause.

A post shared by LPA (@lpa) on

Despite the company's sincere apology, many have also pointed out the jumper, which was meant to highlight the fat-shaming women endure online, was only made in sizes up to an XL.

Since the jumper was removed from Revolve, Dunham has made a statement of her own distancing herself from Revolve and the surrounding backlash.

"Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.)," she posted on Instagram.

"As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm." (Read her full statement below.)

For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with my friend Pia’s company LPA through parent company @revolve - sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.

A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

The writer and director also said she plans to make a contribution to the Girls Write Now, as does LPA. In their own statement, Revolve has pledged to donate $20,000 to the charity.

Unfortunately, context is what killed this well-intended but poorly-executed initiative.

And once you've lost it, it's really hard to get back.

Do you think this jumper could have ever avoided becoming a social media scandal? 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
FROM OUR NETWORK