The Lengthy History of Antisemitism in Fashion
Photographed by Josie Ransley of Anna Konen
By Anna Konen
In early October, Kanye West was in the news a lot, and not because of a new album he wrote or his public divorce, not even because of his fashion line. No, this time, West was caught going on an absurd antisemitic tangent all over Twitter. His harmful words depicted and reinforced Jewish stereotypes and an overall disdain for Jewish people in general. However, this was not the worst nor the first time that antisemitism has been portrayed in pop culture and in fashion. Antisemitism has been consistent in the fashion world often flying under the radar and going unnoticed because of the lack of representation Jewish people get in this ‘glamorous” world.
Kanye’s ignorant and offensive remarks are sadly far from the first examples of Antisemitism in fashion. Adidas was founded by Nazis, and the company had a really challenging time cutting ties with Kanye after his hate speech, an odd coincidence maybe, or totally intentional. Coco Chanel was a Nazi and Forever 21 was rumored to release jewelry with swastikas on it. So why is it that this goes unnoticed? As I did my research for this very article, the results on the internet were sparse, yet another example of antisemitism being shoved under the rug. Yes, there are only 0.2 percent of Jews in the world, but it does not excuse the suppression of their voices, or the persistent hatred directed at them. The dark side of antisemitism in fashion begins with the ever-praised Coco Chanel being a notorious Nazi supporter.
Chanel was the partner of Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage, one of Hitler’s many right-hand men. This led her down the despicable path of eventually becoming a German intelligence agent all in the name of yearning for a rich and famous lifestyle, and of course because she herself hated all Jewish people. Chanel embraced the rise of antisemitism to fit in with the high society people of the time, until she too had become a Jew-hating and German-loving rich businesswoman. To be blunt, unless you too want to be supportive of an antisemitic brand, STOP BUYING CHANEL BAGS.
Next on our list of raging Anti-Semites is Hugo Boss, whose claim to fame was legitimately being Hitler’s Tailor and making Nazi uniforms. Hugo Boss was a German tailor who started his business in 1924 and then only six years later, joined the Nazi party after going bankrupt. Come on, would you not support the killing of millions of Jewish people because you were low on cash? That is right, after being convicted during the denazification in Germany, Boss meekly tried to defend himself stating that it was purely a financial decision. Hugo Boss profited immensely during the Holocaust and used prisoners as employees in his factories.
Not to be forgotten on the never-ending catalog of Jew hating fashion designers is Kenneth Robert Howard, but you may know him better as Von Dutch. You remember him for his hats and Y2K style, I remember him because on his death bed he proudly professed himself as a Nazi and racist stating, “I am not willing to go through it anymore only to emerge in a place full of [N-word], Mexicans and Jews. … I have always been a Nazi and still believe it was the last time the world had a chance of being operated with logic.... I hope you lying wimps get swallowed up with your stupidity.”
As if it could not get any worse, the brand’s name means “By German” and many of their trucker hats proudly display the flying eyeball symbol which is the westernized version of the swastika. So, cool it on wearing those hats with such pride.
The unfortunate truth is antisemitism was not left in the 20th century as many ignorant people like to think. Amazon, Zara, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and Brandy Melville are all culprits of continuous Jewish hatred in their designs. In 2017, 2018, and 2020, Amazon was caught selling Nazi propaganda and Holocaust-denying t-shirts and although the large online retailer blocks the sale of some of these items, many ‘slip through the cracks’ as they say. The company claims to care yet, these shirts are still available for purchase to this day, but hey, anything for a profit, right? In 2015 Zara and whatever imbecile they chose to design for them was outed for releasing a pair of pajamas that strangely looked exactly like concentration camp uniforms. You would think the brand would have learned from their mistake of releasing a purse with swastikas on it in 2007.
Zara’s Jewish hatred does not stop there as in 2015 the brand wrongfully fired a well performing executive for being Jewish, who later spoke out about his discrimination at the hand of Zara founder Amancio Ortega, a radical anti semite. The fast fashion ‘mistakes’ seem to never end as companies including Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 both recently came under fire for selling t-shirts that supported the Nazi movement.
Not only is it the clothes that are made but also the attitude of certain brands that qualify them as antisemitic. For example, Brandy Melville, a brand who has already given us many reasons to hate them only appeals to white, blonde, and skinny girls. In 2021 thirty executives were caught pushing this stereotype in a group chat that mentioned Hitler’s name in over 150 screenshots.
So no, Antisemitism is not over, and it is certainly not just Kanye West preaching it. Jewish people are still being suppressed, and most people are still supporting the many brands that are doing it. From unequal treatment and firings to T-shirts that are code for “Heil Hitler” Antisemitism is alive and well in the fashion industry. The question is, do you care enough to stop it? Or will you keep buying from these pathetic brands?