L. L. Bean, the Maine-based brand famously known for its weather-resistant boots (that have enjoyed a revival in the normcore era), was recently put on anti-Trump organization Grab Your Wallet's boycott list in response to the fact that Linda Bean, one of the company's board members, had raised funds for Donald Trump's political action committee. Bean, who owns the company in part along with 50 other family members, has been an outspoken conservative with longtime ties to the Republican party; she also ran for Congress, though unsuccessful, in 1988 and 1992. According to the Associated Press, Bean contributed $60,000 to the Making America Great Again LLC. Once this news was brought to the public's attention, things got controversial, to say the least.
L. L. Bean responded to the initial calls for a boycott of its products via a statement posted on Facebook on Friday, Jan. 8:
"Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do," wrote the company's Executive Chairman, Shawn Gorman. "As every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built," he continued. "With this in mind, we are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda. L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position."
In an attempt to further dissuade consumers who plan to boycott the outerwear apparel and accessories label, Bean herself made a public appearance on "Fox & Friends" on Thursday morning to speak out against "bullying" toward the companies with which she's affiliated. "My grandfather gave me the first share of stock the day I was born," she said, referring to founder Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean. She continued that if the boycott were to succeed, the victims would ultimately be the company's employees.
Grab Your Wallet co-founder Shannon Coulter responded to Gorman's statement on Twitter. "Instead of carefully crafted PR statements, maybe your energy [would be] better spent looking at whether Linda's support of divisive figures [and] groups is worth the inevitable damage to your brand [and] bottom line such activities will have," she wrote. "In the meantime, I'll shop elsewhere."
L.L. Bean's attempts to prevent a backlash and distance itself from politics are reminiscent of New Balance's PR nightmare during November of last year. The sneaker brand faced negative reactions after praising Trump's trade policies. In addition, Ivanka Trump recently stepped down from all officer and director positions at her eponymous fashion label in accordance to ethics laws and to focus more exclusively on her political role.
Following Bean's visit on "Fox & Friends," Trump himself stirred up more controversy when he took to Twitter on Thursday morning to express his support for L.L. Bean:
Unfortunately, Trump mentioned the wrong Twitter handle for the brand and instead gave a shout out to a Maine-based food and hospitality company also owned by Bean. On Facebook, the L.L. Bean account continues to respond to users' inquiries regarding Trump by repeating: "L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions."
We reached out to L.L. Bean for comment on Bean's public remarks from Thursday morning and will update this post as we learn more.