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Another reason to despise Lilly Pulitzer’s fat-shaming

May 26, 2015, 7:57 PM UTC
Lily Pulitzer Team - 4/15/2015 - New York, New York - LILLY PULITZER for TARGET Launch Event held at Bryant Park Grill, NYC. Photo Credit: Neil Rasmus /BFAnyc *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
Photograph by Neil Rasmus — BFAnyc/Sipa USA/AP

Lilly Pulitzer, the preppy fashion line known for its bright pink and green patterned frocks, set the Internet on fire on Tuesday when photos from its headquarters revealed fat-shaming comics on display.

A photo tour of the company’s headquarters that New York Magazine’s The Cut published on Tuesday showed a cartoonish sketch that read, “Just another day of fat, white, and hideous. You should probably just kill yourself.” Another says, “Put it down carb face.” The caption accompanying the photo says that, “This image shows the personal illustrations of an employee not pictured in this story.”

A Lilly Pulitzer spokeswoman told Bloomberg on Tuesday that “These illustrations were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area. While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company and these images do not reflect our values. We apologize for any harm this may have caused.”

The photo rekindled criticism that the popular fashion line discriminates against plus-size consumers. In January, Lilly Pulitzer announced its collaboration with Target. The collection sold out when it launched in April, but consumers were outraged that only garments up to size 14 were available in stores. Its plus sizes were only available online.

Taken at face-value, the company’s gaffes are offensive, as they seem to communicate a prejudice against some consumers based solely on their size. From a business perspective, they are also misguided. Failing to embrace the plus-sized market means missing out on a growing source of sales. In the 12 months since April 2014, the category—defined as sizes 18 and up—generated $17.5 billion in sales, an increase of 5% from the previous year, according to research firm NPD. The all-important 18-24 age group has generated a 27% increase in plus-size sales since April 2012. From April 2013 to April 2014 alone it grew 23%.