Lands’ End, the country’s official uniform supplier of unoffensive clothing, is finding itself steeped in controversy.
On Tuesday, the purveyor of fleece half-zips and customized totes waded into publisher territory, posting an interview on its e-catalog with feminist activist Gloria Steinem to kick off its “Legends Series,” a series of articles on “individuals who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large.”
The brand is now apologizing for the interview after it sent hundreds of customers into a fit of rage for offending their conservative ideals. Although the interview didn’t mention abortion, instead focusing on Steinem’s style, people complained on Lands’ End Facebook page because they were offended by Steinem’s pro-choice views, lashing the brand as “anti-child.”
“How could you interview Gloria Steinem? She has done so much damage to the dignity of being a wife and a mother. How could Gloria say in the article that “each person is a unique miracle” and still be pro-abortion?,” wrote a woman on its Facebook page, exhibiting the common refrain from conservative customers.
With the reaction against Land’s End swift and brutal (even a Catholic school in Missouri vowed to drop it as its uniform provider, which is a lucrative part of its business), the brand issued an apology on Facebook:
Some customers were troubled and concerned that we featured an interview with Gloria Steinem in a recent catalog. Lands’ End is committed to providing our loyal customers and their families with stylish, affordable, well-made clothing. We greatly respect and appreciate the passion people have for our brand. It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.
That message triggered a response from pro-choice customers lashing the company for caving to pro-life people. “To pull an ad with an icon like Gloria Steinem? Why? Simply put, you are cowards. I will NEVER shop at Land’s End again,” read a top-voted comment.
Data from Brandwatch measured a 71 percent negative sentiment rate for the two backlashes.
First Lands’ End was met with people who did not approve of the Gloria Steinem interview.
“After Lands’ End decided to delete the interview it was met with the social outrage of people who thought they should standby their story,” analyst Kellan Terry told Digiday. “The phrase ‘shame on you’ appears frequently within these mentions.”
The controversy shows how risky the job is for newly installed CEO Federica Marchionni, who conducted the interview, to shake up the 53-year-old brand. “I don’t want to change what is working,” she told Bloomberg about her push to make the brand younger, “just tweak whatever is needed to be tweaked.”
Tweaking, turns out, is not something its conservative fan base likes.