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Zara swears its ‘Pepe the Frog’ skirt isn’t a hate reference
Does art imemetate life, or does life imemetate art?
Clothing company Zara has pulled a denim skirt from their online shop after receiving criticism that the skirt’s design appears to depict Pepe the Frog, the alt-right-appropriated meme symbolizing hate and white supremacy.
According to the Guardian, the meme connection originally came from fashion and music writer Meagan Fredette, who tweeted about the discovery on Monday, April 17.
This is bad pic.twitter.com/8a2cbx0T70
— juicero (@meaganrosae) April 18, 2017
“My immediate thought was holy shit, they have no idea what they are doing here, do they?” Fredette told Dazed. “…They are trying to be edgy here, without caring about the very real implications of their design. Flirting with racial controversy is not a good business tactic.”
— Michael Dreyfus (@dreyfus_michael) April 18, 2017
So apparently Pepe's a symbol of the alt-right? I'm more offended by the fact that it's 2017 and Zara are selling 2010 meme skirts https://t.co/17lKzHakdC
— charlton banks (@charlottedawko) April 18, 2017
— griffin (@PunchNazis_) April 19, 2017
So Zara put a (allegedly) Pepe meme on a skirt and it's a hate symbol now but it actually looks like Old Man Jenkins to me pic.twitter.com/UUphmEMfkg
— Alexa DeAngelis (@_deange) April 18, 2017
While another group of folks didn’t see that much of the resemblance between Pepe and the frogs on the Zara skirt at all.
People are freaking out because Zara put a frog image on their clothes that slightly resembles Pepe??? What is happening
— wells lucas santo (@WellsLucasSanto) April 18, 2017
— JMXD96 (@JMXD96) April 18, 2017
@Notapunnyguy oh i understand the connotation and use of pepe (and it's terrible), but i don't see that meme's likeness in this zara piece
— BENNY (@janbemin) April 18, 2017
A spokesperson for Zara told the Guardian in a statement that the skirt has nothing to do with Pepe the Frog, nor the alt-right, despite Fredette’s connection:
“The skirt is part of the limited Oil-On-Denim collection which was created through collaborations with artists and is only available in selected markets… The designer of the skirt is Mario de Santiago, known online as Yimeisgreat. Mario explores social interactions through his work and in his own words: ‘The idea came from a wall painting I drew with friends four years ago’…There is absolutely no link to the suggested theme.”
Zara also confirmed with BuzzFeed News that the skirt has been pulled from sale in the United States.
Zara is familiar with pulling items after resounding backlash. In 2014, they dropped a children’s striped pajama shirt with a yellow “sheriff star” (sound familiar?) after people said the design resembled clothes worn by Holocaust victims. In 2007, they also released a handbag that appeared to be embroidered with green swastikas.
At least this time it was just Pepe, and not an actual animal sewn into the clothing.
Update 11:42am CT, April 20: Artist Mario de Santiago directed the Daily Dot’s questions to Zara, whose spokesperson, Jesús Echevarria Hernández, said in a statement: “As you can imagine I cannot speak for Mario. What I can say is that the Company has vehemently denied any link to the suggested meme.”
Echevarria Hernández repeated that the artist had been painting the frogs for four years, and pointed to an old video in which he was doing so.
H/T the Guardian
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.