#1556 Stolen Girlfriends Club cans ‘Stolen Generation’ tee shirt

Jasper Seven backstage at Stolen Girlfriends Club F/W 2011. Photo: Frockwriter

Tee shirts have long been a medium exploited for their ability to shock, amuse, propagate, advertise and entertain. But when is a simple message emblazoned on a simple cotton garment no longer so simple? When the potential for widespread hurt, upset, embarrassment or offense occurs (hint: if you’re a member of the Kool Kids Klub, probably not such a good idea to print up a tee using just the initials). And that’s the situation Stolen Girlfriends Club recently found themselves in after showing what they thought was an innocent slogan tee at New Zealand Fashion Week. Reading: ‘I BELONG TO THE STOLEN Generation’, the tee shirt immediately raised the eyebrows of Australian media at the event.

For those who don’t know, the ‘Stolen Generation‘ refers to Australian children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who were taken from their parents and trained in mission schools over a period of 100 years spanning 1869-1969. It is obviously an incredibly sensitive chapter in Australian history.

When questioned about the meaning behind the tee shirt, Stolen Girlfriends Club designer Marc Moore confessed that neither he nor his fellow designers had known the significance of the term, and, according to Patty Huntington, were “horrified to learn what it meant in Australia.” They immediately canned the tee shirt, changing the slogan to: ‘I BELONG TO THE BROKEN Generation’.

In Stolen Girlfriends Club’s defense (and to the best of my knowledge), that aspect of Australian history is not taught in New Zealand schools, nor is it the subject of frequent newscasts. I myself had never heard the term before watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence about five years ago, and have never heard it again until seeing this tee shirt.

Australia is a swiftly growing market for Stolen Girlfriends Club – this Thursday night they are launching their jewellery collection in Sydney at an event attended by upwards of 250 key Australian media and guests.

According to Marc Moore,

“We changed [the tee shirt] because it would have been incredibly insensitive to run it. Australia is one of our main markets and it’s close to home, so we want to make friends – not enemies. Sure our brand can be cheeky at times, but only as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Kudos to Stolen Girlfriends Club for manning up and immediately pulling the tee shirt. In a situation such as this, there’s little else that can be done.

I’m flying out to Sydney tomorrow evening and will be tweeting live from the SGC event. Click here to follow me on Twitter.


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  1. Emma Mcd says

    We learnt about the “stolen generation” in 6th and 7th form history at our mainstream high-school. It’s a pretty fundamental piece of social history and kinda moronic not to know…

  2. Benny says

    What a bunch of twats! Ignorance, is in this case, embarrassing to SGC but becomes embarrassing also to the NZ population once their explanation is accepted. What they’re essentially saying is that between the designer and the 5 other sets of hands that would have touched this garment before reaching the public eye, not one of them had a clue about the terms meaning. Get your heads out of the sand! Im not suggesting that SGC is representative of the NZ population but seriously, when you consider that a number of people have seen the garment before the public and not one had any knowledge of the term what transpires is an image of a terribly uneducated population.

  3. Indy says

    I’m really embarrassed. I am a seller of their goods and and I am sick of their brash attitudes. They would have to be retarded to have not at least HEARD of the stolen generation. I doubt that they would have even come up with the term if they hadn’t. Maybe if they spent less time partying and more interest in where their designs are going then they wouldn’t have such problems. I like some of their stuff but I am beginning to dislike what they stand for more and more.

  4. Emma Gleason says

    im surprised that so many commenters didn’t know about the Stolen Generation – especially when there has been so much media coverage in recent years over the Aus governments unwillingness to apologize.

    But then again I did grow up in Australia, so I find the whole Stolen Generation topic so heartbreaking.

  5. AW says

    I think the slogan was simply a reference to Richard Hell, perhaps the real godfather of punk fashion and his song Blank Generation, which seems fitting given SGCs punk lean.
    Cut them some slack…

  6. Jim says

    I’ve heard of the term but never really know the history behind it and to be honest it doesn’t bother me. what really got me is that they obviously put no thought into this T0-shirt design that i suspect will retails for $80-$100 plus? for them to say they don’t know about it tells me they didn’t even have the courtesy to simply google the few simple words.

  7. Benny says

    Im with AW on this one. Its clearly a play on the line ‘I belong to the blank generation’ from the Richard Hell song. And I highly doubt many NZer’s know what the stolen generation is. Lighten up Indy and the rest of you.

  8. Carwynism says

    New Zealand fashiondesigners really seem to irk Australian media; first with Karen Walker’s soundtrack for her ‘Crop’ show in 1999, Kate Sylvester’s “Medalgate” saga which offended the Returned Services Assoc. and now this headline grabbing stunt! The first two were excusable and possibly due to a lack of research, the latter is just ignorant. It feels like someone has turned on the lights at the SGC party and we are looking around in horror at the ugly reality.

  9. Leonie says

    I saw that when you had the pics from the fashion show. I winced when I saw that shirt on Jasper Seven, but sort of realised NZ isn’t Oz! It is however a very painful reality in both indigenous and white history here. And it’s yet to be resolved.

  10. says

    Oh dear, that’s terrible! I have quite a few S.G.C pieces. Why wouldn’t you check the term first if you didn’t know what it meant?!! That’s embarrassing & not cool when NZ Fashion needs as much PR in Oz as possible … but not that kind! :-(

  11. Chris says

    I thought we were educated enough in NZ to know what that slogan meant? I saw it as the SGC show was broadcast & thought it was pretty harsh

  12. Jessica says

    We learned about the Stolen Generation in 4th form Social Studies, and that was at a large and prominent Auckland high school… Australian history, and in particular that aspect of their history is definitely studied. It has also been discussed in the media, with former Australian PM Kevin Rudd making a formal apology to those in the Stolen Generation in 2008. But good on them for changing it once they learnt their mistake.

  13. Nzdefgene says

    I came to NZ from London when i was 10 and i knew what that slogan meant when i saw that on Frockwriter after ANZFW10 .. That was very cruel..

  14. Laura says

    wow i had no idea what stolen generation meant. just thought it was a name thought of , without a deeper meaning like that. i was never educated about this when i was in high school and earlier years. maybe the people that did know of this are in their 40s , when education about australian indigenous was taught.
    good on s.g.c for changing the tshirt . this will not affect my purchase of s.g.c clothing.

  15. Leonie says

    Well, I don’t know how much Australians know about NZ history. I’m pretty ignorant there. SGC changed it. It’s done.

  16. D.T. says

    Against all expectations, it would appear that people whose only interest is clothing aren’t intellectual heavyhitters

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