January 08, 2016


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Artists Respond to Old Navy's Controversial Toddler Tee

Old Navy closed out 2015 by making headlines - but in this case, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

The controversy surrounded a toddler girls' t-shirt that read Young Aspiring Artist, where the word Artist is crossed out and replaced with another profession, such as Astronaut or President.

 
Implying that children should not aim to be artists, the t-shirt outraged parents, artists, and countless others. The criticism and attacks blew up across social media, as many individuals backlashed against Old Navy. While the design did have a positive underlying intent - promoting that young girls can aspire to have accomplished professions typically held by men - the outcome diminished the validity of the arts.

The irony in the whole situation is nearly comical. Although becoming a successful artist is a difficult endeavor, the probability of becoming an astronaut or president is much more unlikely. While there are thousands of successful artists, there are only a handful of active astronauts and only one president. An artist is not just your stereotypical paint-splattered, beret-wearing hipster. Rather, artists contribute to a wide range of highly-profitable, if not essential, fields - marketing, education, fashion, entertainment - just to name a few. The design of the Old Navy t-shirt would not have been possible without the help of an artist.

The criticisms on social media came from many artists and often offered creative visual interpretations on the design (that's what happens when you attack artists). Several artists at Station 16 have responded to the Old Navy discussion, highlighting varying problems with the situation.


Gilf!

NYC-based artist gilf!'s take on the Old Navy t-shirt

Along with the Instagram post, gilf! wrote, "Fuck @oldnavy & their perpetuation of the herd mentality. To have a creative mind in this world verging on complete slavery is an act of rebellion. Use it Everyday. All Day." Often addressing social and political issues through her work, gilf! highlighted a systematic tendency that stifles creativity. Gilf! continuously encourages free-thinking, imagination, and creation - qualities rejected by mainstream, corporate culture.

 

Alan Ganev

Montreal-based artist Alan Ganev's response to Old Navy

Alan Ganev captioned his Instagram photo, "Keep it cool kids! We becomes whatever we are committed to." While many Old Navy critics took a condemning approach, Ganev's maintained a positive attitude that encouraged people to pursue their passions. Additionally, his response raised another valid question: what toddler has any idea about may be his or her future career, and furthermore, why should a parent impose such career standards on a toddler?

Fuck @oldnavy & their perpetuation of the herd mentality. To have a creative mind in this world verging on complete slavery is an act of rebellion. Use it Everyday. All Day. - See more at: http://iconosquare.com/p/1151004975864659785_23316966#sthash.aUFncVvL.dpuf

Old Navy has since discontinued the t-shirt, and spokesperson Deborah Felix released the following statement:

"At Old Navy we take our responsibility to our customers seriously. We would never intentionally offend anyone, and we are sorry if that has been the case. Our toddler tees come in a variety of designs including tees that feature ballerinas, unicorns, trucks and dinosaurs and include phrases like, “Free Spirit.” They are meant to appeal to a wide range of aspirations. With this particular tee, as a result of customer feedback, we have decided to discontinue the design and will work to remove the item from our stores."
Alexandra Jagodzinski
Alexandra Jagodzinski

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