Two Missouri schools have fired clothing retailer Lands’ End as their uniform supplier following the company’s decision to feature an interview with feminist and abortion activist Gloria Steinem in its spring catalogue.
College of the Ozarks and Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School ended their relationship with Lands’ End, and other Christian and conservative leaders criticized the company’s decision to feature Steinem. Subsequently, Lands’ End apologized and removed the interview, reports Dustin Siggins at The Stream.
“We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality,” said Lands’ End, adding:
We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize. Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance.
The Wisconsin-based Lands’ End – led for the past year by CEO and former Dolce & Gabbana USA president Federica Marchionni – has been known for its casual clothing and school uniforms. The spring catalogue features adults and children dressed up formally for an apparent Easter celebration and engaged in an Easter egg hunt. Steinem was featured as a “Legend Series Honoree,” and Lands’ End offered to donate funds to support her feminist activism.
Marchionni herself conducted the interview with Steinem, praising the radical abortion supporter for having “courage.”
“I felt that there was an unjust, irrational situation, and that we were just trying to say what made sense, what was rational, what was equal or what was kind,” Steinem told Marchionni during the interview about the beginnings of her activism. “I didn’t feel that I was being so brash at the time, just pointing out unfairness — as I would want someone to say to me if I was doing something unfair.”
“The other thing that I see from your experience that’s very close to my philosophy is change,” Marchionni told Steinem. “You changed the landscape, creating Ms. magazine. What was your first step?”
“We were simply trying to create a women’s magazine that we read — one that addressed real issues in women’s lives and could also publish new fiction writers and new poets and news of women in other countries,” said Steinem. “We wanted to create something that would be like a helpful friend coming into your house once a month.”
Marchionni also asked Steinem about her active support for an Equal Rights Amendment.
Women, said Steinem, are “still not part of the Constitution of the United States. One reason we need an Equal Rights Amendment is because nowhere in the Constitution does the word “women” appear. We need a constitutional principle of female equality. The Equal Rights Amendment would give us a constitution that prohibits gender discrimination. That’s why we started the ERA Coalition …”
In response to the interview with Steinem, Dr. Sue R. Head, Vice President of Cultural Affairs and Dean of Character Education at College of the Ozarks, wrote to Marchionni:
College of the Ozarks can no longer be a Lands’ End customer.
Your decision to feature a woman who is a well-known abortion activist as your Legend Series honoree, and to whom the company is giving a portion of proceeds for her organization, has resulted in our decision.
I find it ironic that your cover features young children and their families having an Easter egg hunt when Ms. Steinem stands for ending life in the womb. We will not be part of advancing your agenda or hers. At College of the Ozarks, we believe we are called to stand up against those who seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian values upon which our country was founded.
In your short tenure as CEO, it is clear to me that you do not know who your customer base is yet – but allow me to tell you about one who has spent more than $150,000 in your uniform division. School of the Ozarks is a K-12 laboratory school with nearly 300 students, located on the campus of College of the Ozarks. Ninety percent of our students demonstrate financial need, and because of that, the School provides full and partial scholarships for most families to buy uniforms from Lands’ End. While overseeing the development of this Christian classical preparatory school, I made the decision to use Lands’ End as our uniform provider because of its longtime reputation for delivering quality clothing.
This is not the first offense. Over a year ago, Lands’ End chose to send many of our families a GQ subscription as a “gift,” which they neither knew about nor requested. The cover of the first issue was a woman who was only wearing a lei. Needless to say after that debacle, Lands’ End was put on notice by our institution that the next time the company made a decision that conflicted with our values, we would be gone. Lands’ End is no longer the company I have trusted all these years, and I will be sharing with many other schools the action we are taking in hopes that they will join us.
Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School posted the following letter to its families on its Facebook page on February 24:
The Tennessee-based King’s Meadow Study Center – which promotes Christian and classical education – posted the following on its Facebook page on February 20:
As Fortune reports, Lands’ End was purchased by Sears in 2002 for $1.9 billion, but was valued as a stand-alone company last summer at $779 million.
“What we’re trying to achieve, what I want to do really, is to create and elevate this iconic company into a meaningful, global lifestyle brand,” Marchionni told Fortune in an exclusive interview. “I am sure that the company wants me to explore all that we can unlock- I am here to move the needle and unlock the full potential.”