The world’s biggest swimwear brand, Old Navy, has apologised after claims that its swimsuits were made with a ‘sexistic’ approach to women.
The brand’s chief executive, Mark Littman, told the New York Times that “we made a mistake in making a product that was a little too soft, and that we’re very sorry”.
The company said in a statement on Monday: “The word ‘feminist’ is used in a way that is offensive to people of color.
I apologize to our community, and to all of those who felt we had gone too far in the marketing of our swimwear.”
The statement said that the company has “reinvested our energies into creating a line that will be more inclusive and respectful of our customers”.
Littmann told the Times that the brand’s brand ambassadors are made up of people of colour, “who all have different values, who all have experience, and we need to listen to their experiences”.
“So, we’re going to listen and we’re taking a more inclusive approach to the brand and we are going to continue to evolve our products to make them more culturally inclusive,” he said.
The statement was part of an overall corporate apology, in which Old Navy said it “will engage with women in our product development and our marketing”.
‘We made a bad mistake’ The New York-based brand had previously made headlines after it sparked outrage by calling for a boycott of its line of swimwear, which it said was made by “women of colour”.
In an open letter, women of colour in the US and across the globe called for a change to the company’s business model.
They also called on the company to stop selling swimsuits that “serve a sexualised, oppressive and racist purpose”.
In the letter, a group of women of color called for Old Navy to “rethink its strategy, strategy, and its mission”.
The brand has since said that its “cultural values” will remain, but that “it will be a change in mindset” and “a change in product”.
The spokesperson told the NY Times that while it was a “big step forward”, it “wasn’t enough”.
“The cultural values of the brand will continue to be a core part of our business and our products,” he added.
“It’s not enough for me to say ‘Hey, we will not sell a product for women of a certain race or a certain ethnicity that’s made by women of that colour’, that’s not true, it’s not right, and I think that’s a shame.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t say more.”
Old Navy has been criticized for making a “sexist” swimwear line, which has since been pulled, and has faced protests from people who feel that the design is “too conservative”.
It’s not the first time the company faced criticism over its swimwear.
In 2016, a report by the US-based consumer advocacy group Consumers Union said that Old Navy’s swimwear was “unnecessarily restrictive, sexist and stereotyping”.
“As a brand that has a history of pushing women and girls in their industry, Old Nails swimwear is particularly problematic in its emphasis on comfort and fit,” it said.
“As with so many other companies in our industry, the company will no longer be making Old Navy swimsuits in a fashion that makes them more acceptable to the female consumer.”
Old Nail was one of the first brands to pull its swim wear in response to the US Supreme Court ruling on the so-called Hobby Lobby case, which ruled that it could not require people to cover their religion.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court said the government could not force corporations to allow their employees to opt out of covering the birth control pill and abortion, but did not address the case’s effect on companies that do so.
Old Navy pulled its swim suits in response in April 2016.