Jeremy Scott is known for sending wild, outlandish, often humorous designs down the runway. He's been inspired by everything from The Simpsons to hillbillies to actual trash. But with one of his designs for athleticwear giant Adidas, he's been accused of deriving inspiration from slavery. And despite ardently defending the shoes in question, Adidas has just announced their decision to pull them.
The Jeremy Scott x Adidas Roundhouse Mid "Handcuffs" feature a retro shape with orange plastic "shackles" that fasten around the ankles. Although photos of the shoes first surfaced back in January, Adidas recently posted a photo of them on Facebook igniting a heated discussion (as posting things on Facebook often does) about the shoes' offensive resemblance to a symbol of African slavery. Some examples:
“I daresay that marketing & selling a shoe with a ‘chain & shackle’ accessory is a very bad idea. The ‘chain & shackle’ image has a bad connotation, that of slavery, in the African American community. I think it’s inappropriate. The idea of being chained to Adidas or any object is repulsive."
"Please tell me this is FAKE. I am not hearing these Adidas Amistad Originals,"
"Please African Americans don't line up for these, where does the respect begin and end for our people. Boycott Please!"
Adidas then released this statement, defending the shoes and their designer:
The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery. Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.
We thought it might be worth finding out what Scott's actual inspiration was--slavery seemed unlikely. So we reached out to his PR, who confirmed the inspiration was, not surprisingly, a cartoon. My Pet Monster, a plush doll that spawned an animated series, was popular in the '80s and '90s and is "recognizable by its orange plastic handcuffs," according to Wikipedia.
Still, Adidas has decided not to sell the shoes after all. They told AP in a statement,
Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.
Regardless of Scott's actual inspiration, people obviously have the right to feel what they feel and refrain from buying products that they don't agree with. Whether Adidas needed to pull the shoes from the market--a decision that was more likely made in the interest of damage control than for any other reason--is up for debate. What do you think?