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Hong Kong retailer Giordano apologises and pulls ads following sexism row

Hong Kong fashion retailer Giordano is to remove an advertising campaign showing a woman in a t-shirt bearing the word ‘cook’ after drawing accusations of sexism.

The clothing giant issued a grovelling apology today after consumers complained its new family t-shirt collection was “offensive” and depicted “tone-deaf” gender stereotypes.

Released this week, the social media and outdoor advertising campaign  showcased the brand’s “Team Family Series” line, which included men’s t-shirts featuring the word ‘work’ and a dollar sign and women’s t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘cook’, plus pictures of sandwiches.

One user drew comparisons to ads from the 1950s, which showed women as playing the traditional housewife role:

Others accused Giordano of being deliberately provocative by playing the “any press is good press”. The campaign also drew flak for the depiction of the youngest child wearing a t-shirt bearing the word ‘cry’.

In a Facebook comment posted this morning, Giordano acknowledged  it had received a number of complaints for the advertising campaign. Although the brand refrained from apologising for the ads, it claimed it “did not intend to enforce traditional, gendered stereotypes”.

The company also pledged to pull the campaign from social media and Hong Kong’s billboards, though the original ad’s post still remains on Facebook.

The statement in full reads: “For over 30 years, Giordano’s philosophy of “World Without Strangers” has transcended its origins and has developed enduring trust and strong relationships with our consumers and partners across all borders and cultures. We pride ourselves on providing relevant, essential and timeless fashion for all; and to develop apparel to be worn by for everyone regardless of ethnicity, nationality, culture or gender.

We have recently received a number of enquiries and complaints regarding our “Team Family” advertising campaign in Hong Kong. The spirit of the campaign is to celebrate the power of the family, with the corresponding merchandise using words to depict different, random aspects of life. Unfortunately, our advertising showed a male model wearing a t-shirt with the word “work” and a female model wearing a t-shirt with the word “cook”.

“We agree that the ultimate products could be a better way in presentation that is one of many ways to presenting the love to family which did not reflect our entire true values. Stereotyping and sexism, or any kind of prejudice, however unintentional or passive, has no place at Giordano or in society. At Giordano, we celebrate a diverse range of definitions for family and did not intend to enforce traditional, gendered stereotypes.

“The campaign advertising materials will be removed where physically possible.We appreciate your feedback.”

The controversy comes just a week after the World Federation of Advertisers launched a new guide to help brands ensure their advertising reflects a more progressive portrayal of both sexes.

Released at the WFA’s Global Marketer Week conference in Tokyo on May 15, ‘A Guide to Progressive Gender Portrayals in Advertising’ makes a social and business case for ‘unstereotyping’ ads.

Last year Audi found itself under fire for a Chinese ad which compared a new bride to a used car. 

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