Ralph Lauren apologises for using black fraternity symbol on trousers

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren has apologised for using the symbol of a black fraternity on a pair of trousers.

The chinos, which were advertised for sale on the brand's French website, featured the Greek letters for the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., which was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1914.

Editors from the Watch the Yard website first reported the use of the lettering, which subsequently saw the launch of a petition demanding Ralph Lauren "do the right thing and recall, destroy, and publicly apologise for trying to capitalise off of black culture", according to NBC News.

In response, a spokeswoman for the iconic American label apologised in a statement on Monday and said that the use of the symbols was "an oversight". The chinos, priced at more than $300 (£230), will no longer be sold.

"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," she added.

The incident has also prompted the company to overhaul its design protocols.

Andrea Hence Evans, a legal representative for the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, confirmed that her firm would be investigating the infringement, and was "shocked and appalled" that Ralph Lauren would violate the fraternity's trademarks.

"Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded in 1914 under the principles of brotherhood, scholarship and service," she stated. "Our client's brand symbolises a brotherhood of diverse, college-educated men."

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