US & Canada

'Refugee dress' by New York retailer UZINYC sparks social media storm

Women carry babies after arriving with other refugees and migrants in Mytilene, the port of the northern island of Lesbos, on 22 February 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Retailer UZI NYC said the aim of the dress was to raise awareness of the refugee crisis

A New York-based fashion retailer has come under fire on social media for selling a sleeveless garment on its website labelled a "refugee dress".

UZINYC, which describes itself as a "nomadic asphalt sweatshop", sparked outcry after advertising the dress in black, navy and cream for $119 (£90).

Twitter users accused the retailer of the "fetishisation of refugees" and cashing in on a humanitarian crisis.

The garment, though still available, now appears under a different name.

"You don't see anything problematic with calling this a 'refugee dress'?" wrote Twitter user Alice Doyle.

"Srsly? #Refugees are neither 'nomads' nor a sales gimmick. #UZINYC: apologise, rename dress, donate to #UNHCR, #IRC," wrote Julie Tippens.

Others said the move by the retailer was "tasteless", "disgusting" and "beyond offensive".

As people started directing questions at UZINYC over its marketing choice, they reported being blocked from contacting the retailer on social media.

"@uziuzinyc blocked me when I asked why they named their collection refugee dresses - where's the logic?" wrote Teuta.

UZINYC said the garment was initially named the "refugee dress" in 2007, at the height of the global financial crisis, with the aim of stimulating debate on the issue.

The Brooklyn retailer told the Huffington Post UK that the dress was "our vision of the future" based on "mass migration, climate change and increased economic disparity".

"We feel that it is important to keep these issues within public discourse," the retailer said.

Following the backlash, the "refugee dress" was later renamed the "Oxford dress".

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