Retail giant Woolworths has found itself having to issue an apology after the colour scheme of a bag design from their Country Road range struck a nerve with the South African public.
A South African shopper by the name of Coenie Oosthuysen shared an image of the bag on social media platform Reddit along with the caption “Somebody done f*d up big time. Someone in Country Road’s design department is about to get fired.”
The bag’s colour scheme matches that of the old apartheid flag.
Less than three months ago, the Equality Court ruled that badly intentioned public displays of the old South African flag, often referred to as the “apartheid flag”, should be limited, since “gratuitous display” constitutes not only hate speech but also harassment, and could be interpreted as an expression of white superiority, divisiveness, and severe racial prejudice.
— Olwethu Sipuka (@osipuka) October 17, 2019
Shame of such goods being sold by @CountryRoad via @WOOLWORTHS_SA Buyer & Designer thought such a design is appropriate given the racial tension in South Africa @CyrilRamaphosa talk 2 @WOOLWORTHS_SA 2 rethink decision 2 sell such a gratuitous item after court judgment#Wednesday https://t.co/Fck2sAp2PU
— Qhawekazi (@NiniQhawekazi) October 17, 2019
But was it just a color scheme, or were they intentionally catering to a certain demographic? Visa is different cos it’s everywhere…
— Tree Fel (@mys_Tree) October 17, 2019
Lol I’m boycotting Woolworths, I don’t care where they sold this bag https://t.co/pcykwfbbLZ
— Not your Bra! (@BraPalee_) October 17, 2019
Business Insider reports that the brand has since apologised for the bag the publication had previously reported was sold in Australia. It has since clarified that the bag was being sold in South Africa after being designed in Australia.
Country Road told the publication that it regretted that the applications of its seasonal colours had caused offence and confirmed that they had pulled the product from its shelves.
The brand explained that it had always featured the signature Logo Tote characterised by its five-stripe design. The bag is updated seasonally in new colours and this year’s seasonal Country Road colours for summer are Azure Blue, Marshmallow, Orange, Baby Blue and Navy.
“[We] offer our sincerest apologies to all our South African customers. It is never our intention to cause offence and we have decided to discontinue sales of this item,” Country Road told the publication.
Coincidentally, fellow retailer Truworths found itself in a similar boat after another Twitter user shared an image of mannequins that were grouped by colour.
For years, Uzzi has had a certain connotation attached to it by the public, who often joke that the brand is the preferred choice of criminals.
I got scared for life by these guys association with Uzzi brand. I gave away my 2 Uzzi hoodies because of it. Pictured here are the ones that killed the Mozambique national a couple of years back! pic.twitter.com/23kngLjvro
— Mncedisi Siza (@tamnce) October 16, 2019
All along i thought Uzzi is a uniform for KZN taxi drivers. pic.twitter.com/iIfG8XeOXj
— Skobo se se botsana (@TheRealEueu) October 16, 2019
— Sandile Ngema snr (@Sandile_Snr) March 22, 2017
When contacted for comment by Business Insider, Truworths said the arrangement of lighter and darker mannequins in the Pretoria store in question was done to display merchandise and not reflect customer identity.
“The selection of the mannequins we use in our windows and on our shop floors is by no means selected to reflect South African society or the customer identity of Truworths brands Daniel Hechter and Uzzi,” explained Truworths.
(Compiled by Kaunda Selisho)