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The Zara ‘Pepe’ Skirt: Gaffe Or Stunt?

Josh Nathan-Kazis reported that Zara stopped selling a skirt that looked, to some, to have a “Pepe” frog design, a symbol of the white supremacist so-called “alt-right.” It’s a shredded denim miniskirt with cartoon patches. The world will probably be OK in its absence. How Pepe-like was this frog? Judge for yourself:

Image by twitter

At Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown expresses skepticism about the Pepe resemblance:

“The frogs on the Yime/Zara dress aren’t even intended to portray Pepe […]. They don’t look much like the alt-right icon in the first place, aside from general frogginess, and the artist has explicitly stated that “there is absolutely no link to the suggested theme.”

Brown also notes that frog-skirt designer Mario de Santiago is among the few “indie creators” Zara supports. This is relevant given the company’s history of getting accused of stealing artists’ designs.

Was the skirt controversy, as Brown suggests, a case of “social-media outrage” over nonsense? Or was Zara exhibiting a secret affinity for white nationalism?

I can think of a third possibility — and only a possibility, as my behind-the-scenes knowledge of the fashion world is nonexistent — which is that the company suspected the skirt would cause controversy, making its appearance and disappearance part of a publicity stunt. As in, you read about the skirt controversy and then later that day, not even quite realizing why, find yourself in the store, browsing its many tempting frog-less offerings. This is, in such cases (and there are so many), the cynical hypothesis at which I almost inevitably arrive.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at bovy@forward.com. She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation

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