Apparel with a military vibe is a fashion mainstay that shows no sign of going away. Plenty of retailers release clothing based on this trend every year: jackets and skirts with camo patterns, heavily buttoned army jackets with adornments like flight wings and patches, and anything you can think of in olive green.
The trend is a safe bet as far as sales go, but it’s hard to say the same for public opinion, and some are saying that Swedish apparel retailer H&M has taken the military look too far.
The recent PR storm began with the release of H&M’s Autumn/Winter collection. An olive-green jumpsuit featured prominently in many ads and catalogs hit a little too close to home for female soldiers in the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, who are currently embroiled in a battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The resemblance of the jumpsuit (styled with a brown belt and boots in many photos) to the current uniforms worn by Kurdish fighters prompted mixed reactions on social media.
Many commentators were outraged by the jumpsuit, calling H&M out for capitalizing on the struggles in Kurdistan. Others were angry that their traditional uniform was being mass produced for $19.95.
However, several people have tweeted in support of the jumpsuit, claiming that Kurdish women are flattered and inspired by H&M’s controversial product. It’s an empowering look that supports the efforts of Kurdish fighters, according to them. Some have even thanked the company for releasing the jumpsuit.
Even though response to the jumpsuit was mixed, H&M released an apology for the garment. “We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece, this was of course never our intention,” said H&M global press officer Ida Ståhlnacke in a statement.
“The last seasons we have seen an increasing demand on jumpsuits and therefore we currently offer a selection of jumpsuits in different colors and materials, such as denim blue and deep red. The jumpsuit in question is made in a light and comfortable material and is a part of a larger collection consisting of many garments in khaki green, which also is one of the trendiest colors this season.”
It’s possible H&M was just victim to poor timing. The jumpsuit is a fairly standard cut and color, though it does bear a striking resemblance to the Kurdish uniform. Either way, the jumpsuit is still available through the H&M website. Several sizes are even sold out.