Puma is being taken to task for throwing a party inspired by council estate drug dealing.
The sports brand held a House of Hustle party in Soho last week, where guests were sent Puma shoe boxes stuffed with fake £50 notes and dodgy-looking business cards telling them turn on the trap line.
(Trapping meaning selling and dealing drugs…trap line meaning your dealer phone).
Theyd each been sent a burner phone which came with a pre-uploaded message saying Yo G what u sayin today? Pass tru the House of Hustle.
The trap house, put together with the help of Urban Nerdz marketing agency, was covered in graffiti, blacked out windows and dirty mattresses strewn all over the floor.
While you might think that the biggest crime here is the excruciatingly embarrassing thought of middle-class marketing execs sitting in a boardroom saying Yo G, the sportswear brand has been accused of glamorising class, race and drug issues.
London-based social worker Amber Gilbert Coutts has published an open letter to Puma on her Instagram account.
Its sadly nothing new for sports brands such as yourselves to attach your logo to the lived experiences of prominently working class people of colour, she said.
She recalls that Puma recreated a corner of Jamaica back in 2012, which they called the yard – picking various elements of Jamaican culture to celebrate.
Fast forward an apparently non-progressive six years and what can only be described as a desperate attempt to remain relevant, you created “House of Hustle”. Unlike the sunny vibes of “the yard”, the house of hustle picked a much darker side of the “urban” youth culture so consistently appropriated.
Far from cool however, adolescent drug dealing so often results in violence, exacerbated deprivation and community pain.
She says this ode to trap life, which was an attempt to attract the young “road” crowd was not missed by your security team who was – disproportionately – in full force on the night.
On the night in question, there were six stabbings in 90 minutes in the capital – including that of a 13-year-old boy. Amber says that its the vulnerable young people associated with gangs and the related drug market who are most at risk of becoming victims of violence.
Although your event has been and gone, as one of the worlds largest sports brands, you have failed to honour your corporate social responsibility and must seek to rectify this.
We can only hope that rather than capitalising on lifestyles that are born out of poverty, your future “creatives” will come up with a less explorative way to sell trainers.
Among the many comments agreeing with Ambers thoughts are endorsements from people who have actually been involved in this kind of activity.
As someone who has lived through the things they are glamorising here I really appreciate this post which is something I could have never articulated, one person writes.
Its grim to see my childhood used as a marketing tool when living through it was traumatic and still haunts myself and my family today!