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June 21, 2012  | by: Latonya Darrisaw

We’ve all heard the phrase:  “a slave to fashion,” but never before has it taken such a literal turn. Designer Jeremy Scott and footwear company, Adidas, have come under fire for their recent JS Roundhouse Mids sneakers. The purple and gray sneakers are equipped with an accessory representing centuries of hurt and pain for African-Americans: orange shackles.  

Design information on the sneakers was released months ago. However, it wasn’t until Adidas posted photos last Monday on their Facebook page that the public went into hysteria, claiming that the shoes evoke degradation, servitude and quite simply, slavery. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson along with many rappers have all weighed in on the controversial sneaker. For now, Adidas has decided to not proceed with the infamous “shackle shoes” as planned and released the following statement to the public:

“We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”

For a company that targets its brands to urban consumers and athletes- particularly young African-American males- Adidas should have had some reservations about the sensitive shoe design.

One can understand Jeremy Scott’s uniqueness and quirky design. After all, he is the designer responsible for “The Simpsons” collection at fall 2012 Fashion Week. He must’ve known that designing a shoe with chains around the ankle would not generate positive attention. For the same designer responsible for the popular “wings” sneakers, it’s hard to believe he took this many steps backwards- literally.

Scott's "My Pet Monster" toy

Drawing inspiration from cartoons, Scott released a statement to the AP stating, “My work has always been inspired by cartoons, toys and my childhood.” In fact, Scott referenced the design for the JS Roundhouse Mids from a cartoon character and toy from the 90′s called “My Pet Monster.” But something tells us that the furry playmate from that hit TV show pushed the limits and alienated some of Adidas’ targeted demographic.

People of color are constantly defending themselves in the fashion industry, however. Recently, a French Elle editor claimed African-Americans were not stylish until the Obama’s came to the White House and adopted “white codes.” In Jackie, a Dutch fashion magazine, they used the n-word in a profile story on Rihanna.

If these racial missteps didn’t occur so  frequently in the fashion industry, the public might not have had such a hasty reaction to Scott’s sneakers.  The public would have given him, or a representative from Adidas, a chance to explain the design inspiration before associating it with slavery. The subject is still raw, especially when footwear inspired by a blue, furry monster with orange cuffs resembles slavery cuffs.

Binding slavery chains circa 1865

Is Jeremy Scott’s design offensive, or is it a form of artistic expression? What do you think of the insensitivity to color the fashion industry? How will this affect Adidas in the future?

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