The Fashion Logistics of Unanticipated Outrage

Let's say, en route to designing and manufacturing a perfect t-shirt, you consult a vast array of industry experts about the best way to do so, you dive deep into the roots of design and the psychology of consumer behavior and trendiness, and you do extensive, face-to-face research with your likely consumer base to the point where you have an in-depth, nuanced understanding of what they like, what they want, and what they'll actually buy.

But what happens when a careful, well-researched decision ends up provoking an unexpected amount of outrage from your target customer base? How do you deal with unpredictable outrage?

Periodically over the past couple months, we've been checking in on the Planet Money podcast's journey through the wide world of apparel as they attempt to explain the industry's myriad complications by designing, manufacturing and selling their own T-shirt.

For Planet Money's team of reporters, each instructive step has been filled with unexpected obstacles and pitfalls. One particularly illuminating process was choosing the colors of the T-shirts. Instead of just going with personal preferences or gut-feeling decisions about which colors fit the project the best, the team consulted with professional design experts, who pointed them toward a handful of colors and explained why the ones they chose — a sort of charcoal grey for men and violet-pink for women — are en vogue for surprisingly complicated, yet fascinating reasons.

What Planet Money didn't expect, however, was for one of their choices to provoke a strange bit of controversy. Several disgruntled listeners objected to the assumption that women would prefer pink t-shirt or that there were different colors for males and females to begin with. To quote the comment section on the project's Kickstarter page:

"Planet Money really missed a chance with their "pink" explanation episode. While their piece was insightful in itself, the uproar all over the blogs was NOT about where the colors came from. The real question was why this team of seemingly forward thinking people--at NPR of all places--could not realize women are tired of being patronized by the color pink? "

"If you are not going to offer color options, at least make both gender's shirts color neutral. I am not against wearing pink, but I do not like when it is offered as the only option for women and assumed that that's what we would prefer."

"It is disappointing that a rad show like Planet Money would fall so hard into mainstream fashion culture's gender-stereotyped color palettes."

"There are a lot of women, such as myself, who do not like pink and find this choice extremely off-putting."

"Though I have great respect for both the program and the project, I've gotta say, the planet money team really screwed up when it comes to gendered shirt colors. Did you really expect your audience wouldn't be annoyed by pink women's shirts and non-pink men's shirts? Just who do you think is listening to your program? How on earth did you not see this coming? The relevant question isn't "why pink?" The question is, "why is only one gender pink?"

Simply put, Planet Money put an unusually high amount of thought into their color choice. But the choice was likely driven by what would be the color with the most interesting and illuminating backstory — not what their customers preferred most (the Planet Money team is still reporters, first and foremost, and an interesting story is what they're truly selling). And the choice sparked what had to be an unexpected degree of backlash.

For the Planet Money team, it's probably not worth it to change directions at this point. But for apparel companies, this type of outrage can utterly sink a product line as soon as it hits the shelves.

When customers respond to a product release with unanticipated negativity, apparel companies have to be able to respond quickly. And doing so requires the flexibility and nimbleness that can be maintained with top-notch fashion logistics such as expert apparel supply chain management. At The Apparel Logistics Group, our fashion 3PL services can help.

Posted: 6/25/2013 11:54:02 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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