Bath & Body Works blasted over Black History Month line. ‘Pandering and embarrassing’

Courtesy of the Merced Sun-Star
By Tanisia Kenney
February 4, 2022

Bath & Body Works released a limited-edition line in honor of Black History Month that some have criticized as “trash,” “tacky” and as an example of “culture appropriation” by brands during the monthlong celebration. The national bath shop unveiled the latest collection featuring products in some of its most popular scents with packaging inspired by traditional African art and designs, according to photos and videos posted online. Inspirational words including “unity” and “empowered” are set against the colorful prints. In addition, Bath & Body Works said it will donate $500,000 to the National Urban League and Columbus Urban League to support civil rights and racial justice across the U.S., a note on its website states.

“To me, it beautifully bridges our rich history with a bright future through vibrant colors and inspirational messages,” William Bernard, vice president of design for Bath & Body Works, told Stylecaster of the collection. “I also think it’s meaningful that a group of Black associates, leaders and partners from Bath & Body Works were a part of the creation, allowing our collective expression to come to life.”

“All you’ve done is slap some tribal print and positive words on existing products,” someone commented on the company’s Facebook page. “This is pandering and embarrassing. If you want to celebrate something, then make that effort.” Several others agreed, arguing that the brand missed an opportunity to show its support by promoting or partnering with Black-owned businesses. Others accused Bath & Body Works of cultural appropriation and stealing from Black artists. A Bath & Body Works spokesperson told McClatchy News that the company teamed with in-house and external Black creatives, as well as Black associates for the designs, which were inspired by traditional African mud cloth meant to “pay tribute to the heritage of those whose stories we honor today,” according to a video posted online.

The Ohio-based brand has since responded to the backlash and said it welcomes the customer feedback. “Bath & Body Works has a commitment to fostering a culture that is inclusive, embraces social change, takes action and is accountable,” a company spokesperson told McClatchy News in a statement. “We value the feedback we have received, and we will continue to listen closely to our associates, customers and community, and use this feedback to shape our future efforts.”

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