Just a week ago, popular sportswear brand Puma teamed up with JD Sports and marketing agency Urban Nerds to throw a party, inspired by council estates, drugs and ‘all things street’. In the wake of youth crime sweeping across London, Puma’s ‘House of Hustle’ party hasn’t been well-received by the public.
The party was set in a Soho ‘trap house’ and was splattered with graffiti and featured blacked-out windows. On the inside, partygoers were met by rappers from the UK’s drill scene (a derivative genre of hip-hop that features extremely explicit and violent lyrical content), tattooists on hand to deliver new ink and barber stations that offered guests fresh cuts. Attendees could even get a new set of grills.
The sportswear brand’s event, which some saw as a poor attempt to glamorise criminal culture, was called out by London-based social worker, Amber Gilbert Coutts who works with vulnerable families. She went on social media to vocalise her thoughts on the event and the current climate for young people amid street violence, police cuts and community unrest.
In an Instagram post, she said: “It is sadly nothing new for sports brands such as yourselves to attach your logo to the lived experiences of prominently working class people of colour.”
She stressed: “The house of hustle picked a much darker side of the ‘urban’ youth culture so consistently appropriated. Far from cool, however, adolescent drug dealing so often results in violence, exacerbated deprivation and community pain.”
Coutts added: “With event branding such as yours comes another careless exploitation: one that promotes and trivialises the horrendous lived experiences of many of the young people you shamelessly attempt to imitate.
“As one of the world’s largest sports brands you have failed to honour your corporate social responsibility and must seek to rectify this.”
The post had a major impact on social media, users showed their support and thanked Coutts for articulating the brand’s failure. As many expressed similar beliefs, Coutts ended her post saying: “We can only hope that rather than capitalising on lifestyles that are born out of poverty, your future ‘creatives’ will come up with a less exploitative way to sell trainers.”
Race campaigner Lee Jasper also commented on the event on Twitter and called for the brand to explain the stunt. He wrote: “How can Puma hold a #PumaGangstaParty celebrating crack dealers, while our children are being murdered in these streets? They’ll be selling designer shrouds next. Can anybody from Puma care to explain?”
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