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Old Navy Makes Purple Patriotic for a Good Cause

Megan Amrich headshotWords by Megan Amrich
Consumer Trends
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“Old Navy is turning the big 2-5, and like any good millennial, we’re celebrating for a whole month!”

With this tweet, fashion retailer Old Navy recently kicked off not only its month-long birthday celebration, but also its #BelongingLooksLike campaign. And in true millennial fashion, this campaign includes nostalgia, social media influencers, matching T-shirts, and a call for businesses to take a stand on social and political issues.  

So far, the most publicized part of the #BelongingLooksLike campaign has been, well, purple. Old Navy’s logo – both online and outside the Times Square flagship store – has temporarily changed from dark blue to purple. And on June 25, Old Navy released a purple version of its annual $5 flag T-shirts. For many families during the 1990’s and 2000’s, the matching white T-shirts were as much a part of the Fourth of July as fireworks and barbeques. The limited-edition purple 2019 version (also $5) features the traditional American flag image and the phrase “25 years of belonging” on the front, and a message on the back explaining “Why Purple?”. (The simple answer: “Purple is what you get when you bring red, white and blue together.”)

Within 24 hours, all 1,994 purple shirts (a nod to Old Navy’s founding in 1994) were sold out, after social media influencers like Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown featured the shirt on platforms like Instagram. As of June 27, Old Navy’s website had replaced the page to buy the shirts with a pop-up shop offering a variety of other purple items customers could purchase instead. 

But #BelongingLooksLike extends beyond the purple logos and shirts. As Old Navy president and CEO Sonia Syngal explained in an op-ed on Fortune:

“We knew the best way to celebrate our brand . . . is through our commitment to belonging. Since 1994, we’ve set out to democratize style. To us, that means everyone is welcome and should feel like they belong the moment they enter our stores, try on our clothes, and experience the Old Navy brand. No customer is the same as any other, and that’s exactly as it should be.”

As part of #BelongingLooksLike, Old Navy says it is donating $25,000 to Open to All, a public engagement campaign that seeks “to build awareness and understanding about the importance of strengthening our nation’s nondiscrimination laws—and to defend the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.”

Open to All was created as a response to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. While that specific case dealt with discrimination based on a customer’s sexual orientation, Open to All and its advocacy efforts also cover discrimination based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, disability, religion, gender, and more. Today, more than 5,000 corporations, small businesses, non-profits, government organizations and politicians have taken the pledge to be Open to All. Old Navy was one of Open to All’s founding business members, and is the first retailer to extend Open to All’s pledge to Mexico and Canada.

Unsurprisingly, even a cause as seemingly non-divisive as “belonging” has stirred up some criticism of Old Navy. Some people have pointed out the timing of this campaign, considering the racial profile accusations against a Canadian Old Navy store earlier this month. Others have found issue in the omission of the words “under God” and the replacement of “justice” with “fun” in the phrase “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and fun for all” on the purple T-shirts and the Old Navy website. And people on Old Navy’s Facebook page have commented on the irony of a “limited edition” shirt meant to celebrate inclusivity.

While the #BelongingLooksLike campaign may have some flaws, its central messages of unity and nondiscrimination are much needed in today’s social and political climate. For more information on how you can spread the word about the Open to All pledge, click here.

Image credit: Old Navy

Megan Amrich headshotMegan Amrich

Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - chronicling her experience as a parent of a special needs child - will launch later this year

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