PARIS, France — French underwear start-up Le Slip is under fire after videos appeared on social media showing employees attending a New Year’s Eve party where guests wore racist costumes.
In the videos, one guest is wearing blackface and another is dressed as a gorilla. The videos were posted on a personal social media account but quickly spread, drawing criticism from viewers. Calls to stop buying from the brand coalesced around the hashtag #boycottleslipfrancais.
It was unclear from the videos which of the subjects, if any, were Le Slip employees. However, a statement by the brand said that two employees had been “severely sanctioned.”
“If the company is not legally responsible for the actions of its employees beyond the professional context, we consider that we have a moral responsibility against these racist and discriminatory behaviours that are at odds with our values,” the statement said.
Start-up culture has also come under the microscope, with fast-growing online brands and technology companies facing scrutiny for internal practices and the actions of their employees, from the founders on down.
Fashion brands have repeatedly been accused of drawing from blackface and racial stereotypes in products and advertising. Gucci’s balaclava and H&M’s campaign starring a black child wearing a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” both sparked calls for boycotts and trending hashtags on social media platforms. Both brands adopted new internal protocols covering diversity and cultural sensitivity.
Unlike those incidents, the party attended by Le Slip employees was not a company event or tied to the brand’s marketing. But to the brand’s detractors online, that distinction appeared to be irrelevant.