Ralph Lauren apologises for black fraternity symbol on $485 chinos

Ralph Lauren faced backlash for using Greek letters from Phi Beta Sigma without permission. (Photo: Twitter.com/Complex)

American luxury fashion company Ralph Lauren Corporation found itself in hot water after featuring a pair of chinos that included the Greek letters of a historically black college fraternity for sale on its French website.

The $485 (€299.99) pants sparked outrage from advocacy groups and accusations that the brand was ‘trying to capitalise off of Black Culture,’ prompting the company to issue an apology and remove the product entirely.

The first to sound the alarm about the garment, which featured the letters of the black Greek organisation Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., was Watch The Yard, a website that features news about historically black colleges and universities.

A Change.org petition on behalf of Phi Beta Sigma, an organisation at Howard University in Washington, D.C., quickly followed calling for Ralph Lauren Corp. to ‘recall and destroy’ the offending chinos.

Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. attend "School Daze" 30th Anniversary Screening at The Fox Theatre on February 19, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Getty Images.

“We are demanding that Ralph Lauren do the right thing and RECALL, DESTROY, & PUBLICLY APOLOGISE for trying to capitalise off of Black Culture!” the petition read.

“We don’t know WHO thought that this was a good idea; but they need to fix it quick!”

As of Thursday morning, the petition had more than 500 signatures.

In response, Ralph Lauren removed the product from its website and, in a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle US, a company spokesperson noted it has also reached out to Phi Beta Sigma officials.

“The use of these symbols on our products was an oversight for which we deeply apologise. We took immediate action to remove the product from our sales channels,” the statement read.

“While we have a rigorous review process in place for all of our designs, this has prompted us to take another review of our protocols to help ensure that this does not happen again.

“As an American brand with more than 50 years of heritage, Ralph Lauren is inspired by many facets of American culture. As part of this, we are firmly committed to respectful and appropriate use of all cultural icons and insignias.”

Phi Beta Sigma was founded in 1914 by three young African-American male students, with notable past members including actors Blair Underwood and Terrence Howard, and Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton.

Yahoo Lifestyle US reached out to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. for comment.

Additional reporting by Megan Simms.

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