Apparel Maker Lands' End Puts Itself in Tough Spot After Removing Gloria Steinem Interview
In reaction to anti-abortion activists, clothing retailer Lands' End has apologized for and removed content related to an interview with feminist icon Gloria Steinem in its spring catalog and on the company's website.
But at this point, it seems that the retailer has found itself between a rock and a hard place. The inclusion of the Steinem profile may have outraged a portion of its customer base, but the removal of the feature may have lost Lands' End even more potential customers who feel that the company's leadership shouldn't have apologized in the first place.
Dear @LandsEnd, my kids know Gloria Steinem is a heroine, and they're also going to know why they're no longer wearing your clothes.— Farran Nehme (@selfstyledsiren) February 26, 2016
Protests from customers who took issue with Steinem's stance on abortion prompted the company to remove the conversation between the activist and Lands' End CEO Federica Marchionni. The interview is part of the company's Legend Series -- interviews with people "who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large."
It wasn't only comments on social media -- two private schools with religious affiliations have said they will not be purchasing uniforms from the retailer any longer, reports the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. The retailer posted this statement on its Facebook page:
A partnership with the ERA Coalition's Fund for Women's Equality -- Steinem is a board member -- has also been dropped. Customers could choose to affix an item of apparel with an ERA Coalition logo, and the company would donate $3 to the organization, but that option has also been removed from the website.
The Wisconsin-based business started as a sailing supply company and after 50 plus years in business, it is not exactly synonymous with high fashion or the cutting edge. It's more likely to be confused with competitors such as outdoorsy mainstays L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer.
Sears bought Lands' End in 2002 for $1.9 billion, but in 2014, the department store and the apparel maker parted ways after several years of declining sales. Marchionni was hired on as CEO in 2015, following a three-year stint as the president of Dolce & Gabbana, in an effort in an effort to keep the brand relevant and reach a broader audience.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.