The Ralph Lauren Corp. apologizes for using the Greek letters associated with a predominantly black fraternity on a pair of pants.
The website Watch The Yard reported that Ralph Lauren was selling a pair of chinos in France that had the Greek letters Phi Beta Sigma printed on the leg. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is a Greek-lettered organization that is a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. This international fraternity was founded at Howard University in 1914 and has close to 200,000 members globally.
Upon seeing the pants, members of this organization/similar sororities and fraternities believed that Ralph Lauren was attempting to capitalize on black culture. This prompted a Change.org petition to be created that urged the company to "do the right thing and recall, destroy, and publicly apologize" to the black Greek community.
"Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. was founded in 1914 under the principles of brotherhood, scholarship, and service," a legal representative for the fraternity, Andrea Hence Evans, said after telling NBC that she was "shocked and appalled" by the pants. "Our client’s brand symbolizes a brotherhood of diverse, college-educated men."
The company took this complaint seriously. It discontinued the sale of the pants that retailed for 299.99 euros (close to $334 USD). The Ralph Lauren Corp. also issued a public apology on Tuesday for the incident, claiming that the design was an "oversight."
The use of these symbols on our products was an oversight for which we deeply apologize. We are immediately taking action to remove the product from our sales channels. While we have a rigorous review process in place for all of our designs, this has prompted us to take another review of our protocols to help ensure that this does not happen again.
As an American brand with more than 50 years of heritage, Ralph Lauren is inspired by many facets of American culture. As part of this, we are firmly committed to respectful and appropriate use of all cultural icons and insignias.