Many correctly thinking dog lovers go to great effort to spread the message that dogs are not fashion accessories or commodities, pointing to the designer dog trend — and the frequency with which those dogs end up in shelters — as one of the risks of such wrongheaded thinking.
And then some bonehead like Lyst comes along and just craps all over that message.
Earlier this week, the designer-clothing website made outraged headlines by launching a “canine collection” on its site, featuring 33 dog breeds for sale as accessories, from “petite XS puppies to oversized companions, in a choice of six wearable colourways.”
“Find the right dog to match your wardrobe from our curated collection of breeds that are as stylish as they are loveable,” it said, stupidly.
Selling dogs to match your clothes? It had to be a joke, right? Hold that thought. First, look at one of the dogs who was on sale:
And now look at the store’s heavily produced video:
And now look at this tweet, one of many that went out by the company about the new offerings:
And look at this tweet, one of a handful sent by “customers” who received their dogs in their rickety-looking boxes:
So, was it a joke? Of course it was a joke — but a really bad joke that the company went all in on, bizarrely. As more and more organizations and people turned to social media to express their outrage — including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — the company kept the crap going, telling the Daily Mail: “We were surprised to see the negative reactions on social media — the very space where dogs are paraded as accessories the most. Who doesn’t love a cute puppy in a handbag?” the spokesperson said, stupidly. “We’re just helping you buy both pieces of the Instagram shot at once.” Finally the company came clean, but it didn’t apologize for the upset it caused people. Instead, it tried to play the whole thing off as a campaign to raise awareness that dogs, ha ha, are not fashion accessories after all! It did so by putting a hastily designed graphic onto Twitter. This one:
And, incredibly, the company then seemed to congratulate itself with a series of tweets saying how nobody was talking about “puppy farming” on Twitter until Lyst got everybody talking about puppy farming on Twitter, failing to mention that Lyst got everybody talking about puppy farming on Twitter because it pretended it was puppy farming. That’s like Michael Vick saying, “Hey, at least I got everybody talking about dog fighting!”
Nobody bought it, especially on Twitter. In a statement, the Humane Society International summed it up nicely (via Cosmo):
This is one of the most cynical and hypocritical PR stunts we’ve seen in a while and it has hugely backfired for Lyst. People are certainly talking about their brand, but for all the wrong reasons. Exploiting people’s deeply felt concern for animal welfare and then risking making them feel foolish when it’s revealed it’s a hoax, is not very clever. … Many people will have been really upset by Lyst’s silly stunt but relieved to find out the dog suffering was fake; the suffering of the poor creatures who die for fur however, is all too real.
We advise Lyst to stick to clothes, to own up to dumb campaigns, and to give its employees the freedom to say an idea is stupid without fearing for their jobs, because how on earth this campaign got as far as it did is beyond us.