The Ralph Lauren Corp. has apologized for using a black fraternity’s symbols on a pair of chinos following complaints, and said they are no longer available for sale.
An ad for the pants on Ralph Lauren’s French website featured the Greek letters for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., which was founded at Howard University, a prominent historically black college in Washington, according to the fraternity’s website.
The use of the lettering was first reported by website Watch the Yard and prompted a Change.org petition this month demanding that the company “do the right thing and recall, destroy and publicly apologize for trying to capitalize off of black culture.”
The pants retailed for 299.99 euros (about $334 U.S. dollars) and featured the fraternity’s symbols on the back left pant leg.
“We don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but they need to fix it quick,” the petition states, saying that Phi Beta Sigma is a professional organization that is not for sale.
Andrea Hence Evans, a legal representative for the fraternity, said Tuesday that her firm was investigating and that the organization was “shocked and appalled” that Ralph Lauren would violate the fraternity’s trademarks without consent.
“Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. was founded in 1914 under the principles of brotherhood, scholarship and service,” Evans said. “Our client’s brand symbolizes a brotherhood of diverse, college-educated men.”
A spokeswoman for the fashion brand told in a statement Monday that the use of the symbols on the chinos was “an oversight” for which the company deeply apologized and that it had taken immediate action to stop selling them.
The spokeswoman also said that while Ralph Lauren has a rigorous review process for its designs, this incident had prompted the company to take another look at its protocols to help ensure that such a problem 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,” the spokeswoman said. “As part of this, we are firmly committed to respectful and appropriate use of all cultural icons and insignias.”