A new season fresh and full of potential for Miami-infused pastels and Southern-porch perfect florals should get you excited that it’s now spring. The vivacious and warm givings of this season is especially perfect for favorite indie shopping site Modcloth to deliver their best and brightest for girls who love all things retro, unique, inclusive– forward.
But reading through the brand’s Facebook page you’ll see comments showing nothing but disappointment and anger. Modcloth, as of late, is no longer indie.
And with that, comes that loss of that fashion-forward optimism for spring.
Before being bought by Walmart, the beloved brand for fringe shoppers of the late 2000’s turned the idea of “quirk” into a standard of style by 2017. It wasn’t even about the heart neckline dresses or peep toe pumps that looked like they were plucked straight from the 50’s anymore, as Modcloth expanded beyond women’s apparel into housewares and beauty products that resembled well– any kind of girl you’d imagine with interests all over the spectrum. Classic pinup girls with dinosaur-shaped lockets, tomboys wearing floral bombers and chrome manis. Every woman had something to find on Modcloth, and in good conscience. The brand became committed to never use photoshopping on their models, who in themselves ranged from young to old, small to tall and curvy– from all ethnicities. For a company so bent on selling the past with a twist, their twist was meant to be enjoyed by all women of the modern age.
But in this modern age, the model of fast fashion and value-conscious consumerism was no match for a clothing brand with seemingly big and loyal following. In her statement released to shoppers on March 17th, Co-Founder Susan Gregg Koger revealed periods of layoffs amidst watching the fashion industry “change dramatically,” acknowledging that mighty did not mean immune. This “bittersweet” decision to join the Walmart family, she hopes,
will give us the necessary resources and support that we need as a business to grow. Growth allows us to reach more women, grow our community, and amplify our message. Our mission to help our customers feel like the best version of themselves continues.
To loyal shoppers, however, the sale to Walmart is exactly the opposite of this new “best” version on the horizon.
“I think you spelled Modcloth wrong,” one user remarks on a post from the brand’s Facebook page made March 23rd, “The correct spelling is Wal-Mart.”
“Pretty posts won’t make us forget you forsook your morals,” another says on a March 21st post for floral candles. In the same post, others were more or less objective: “I’m still following ModCloth for the comments on the posts. I am so let down at this selling out but I love the fire you ladies are bringing.”
The legion of disappointed customers continue across social media in the days that follow their major move announcement. And why wouldn’t they be? At the end of the day, it is just another forward-thinking brand merging with Walmart, synonymous with corporate greed that at the expense of fair wages and gender equality among their workforce reaps considerable amount of profit. Being worth $149 billion is easy when you cater towards the value-conscious consumers seeking a place to buy household items and groceries for almost nothing, supported by employees who make nearly nothing. Ethics aside, anything worth having comes easy for Walmart. Easy, fast, cheap– unethical. Something you would have never associated with Modcloth.
And now we rightfully can– or can we?
As a business, Modcloth, as committed and doe-eyed as it has been on the market, needs resources for maintaining their success. If their shoppers aren’t doing that alone, then who can? As surprising as the merge comes, it makes as much sense as much as it doesn’t. For the net worth of a company like Walmart, this would mean (and it’s a question also asked on their social media by genuinely curious and still loyal customers) that the prices on the Modcloth brand would drop– cute and vintage at new, lesser costs. The vision that can work with this new era is in itself a uniquely inclusive vision– that women of all sorts can still enjoy the Modcloth feel as a price that any woman can afford. Rich or poor. It can also give Modcloth the funds and bigger publicity they need to push through with their message, and in doing so having the public eye start seeing Walmart in a new light: a friendlier, more ethical one in which corporate greed is transitioning into consumer inclusion. When all consumers are happy, so is the company– especially a company like Walmart trying to change its image at virtually no cost.
But what about their employment practices?
While that is still in the works, there is still going to be the anger and fury behind any company who makes profit off an underpaid, poor-treated workforce. Modcloth itself is not going to change the way they treat their own employees or how they view their ethics– they will just be paid to continue in their own ways, but just as their paychecks come from the existing mass of Walmart workers still being exploited. If the brand had to be sold to anyone, then why not Target? Why not other, more-respectable big consumer-based retailers who don’t treat their employees badly?
Still, this is all just speculation within a week of this shocking business move. Loyal customers are few and far on social media, but it’s not the business itself. In the coming months we’ll really see if the barks are worse than the bites, if Modcloth’s new merge takes them to new heights and if they still can achieve their goals with a little help from public enemies like Walmart. In return, perhaps this might mark a new change in the Walmart brand too for following the footsteps in Modcloth rather than Modcloth following theirs, as much wishful thinking that is. There is much to be rightfully concerned and upset about– but there is also much to see.
So here we come into new beginnings as spring gets warmer and trees burst with lush bloom. The modern age sees old sights that always seem fresh– so will this be true with Modcloth? If it even is the Modcloth we’ve come to love these past 15 years. But the season is young, and the rest of an eventful year awaits– so just like all, we’ve yet to see whether this new chapter in a beloved brand really can triumph as a better version, despite the thorns that’s gotten in their way– or helped them grow.