Zara and the Connection to Popular Meme Controversy

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By: Caroline Hartshorne

Joining the likes of the Forever 21 controversies, Zara is in the midst of one itself.

In its new spring line, Zara, the Spanish fashion chain, created a denim miniskirt with a printed cartoon face. The fashion company quickly retracted the skirt after becoming a social media controversy based on its similarities to the popular meme “Pepe the Frog.” According to The New York Times, controversy first began with this meme when it was “co-opted by anti jewish and bigoted groups and designated an alt-right hate symbol by the Anti Defamation League last September.”

Originally, the amphibian character was created by Matt Furie with the intention of simply being a sad frog. The skirt was designed as part of the limited collection titled “Oil-On-Denim,” that featured artists collaboration. The designer of the skirt, Spanish artist Mario De Santiago created the design based off a wall painting he created in the past, with no knowledge of the frog.

In the past, Zara has had bad luck with potentially offensive implications. Some include, the 2014 stripped children’s pajamas that featured a gold star on the breast, juxtaposing nazi concentration camp uniforms, or their campaign earlier this year titled “Love Your Curves” which featured two skinny models.

Zara is known for testing it’s products on the shop floor, which allows the company to respond quickly to what customers do and do not like without costing too much money. This controversy might just teach Zara to stick with the more traditional way fashion companies produce their designs.