The Black Milk Clothing Fiasco

By: Terra Clarke Olsen

As many of you have probably heard, Black Milk Clothing had a PR fiasco three days ago. To celebrate May the 4th, they posted this image:

black milk pr disaster

Not surprisingly, many Black Milk fans questioned the image, pointing out that it implies that the woman on the left is somehow better and more attractive than the woman on the right, which goes against what Black Milk and its community stands for. I won’t go over all the nitty gritty of the whole calamity, as Buzzfeed posted a great article (surprisingly) that tracks how terrible Black Milk handled the valid criticism from their fans. In summary, they were jerks. They refused to acknowledge that what they posted was offensive; they deleted comments that disagreed with them; they banned users from their Facebook page (including long time supporters and admins); and at one point even refused to apologize. They eventually did apologize, posting this on their Facebook wall:

black milk apology

But by now all the damage has been done. And it leaves many fans, including myself, asking ‘What the heck happened?! Where do we go from here?”

I’ve been a Black Milk fan and supporter for the past few years, spending more money than I would like to admit on their products. In the past, I easily would have listed Black Milk Clothing as one of my favorite examples of excellent customer service, marketing, and PR. They fostered a positive community that helped them grow their small business, moving productions from a kitchen to a warehouse. And Black Milk knows that their community and fans are the reason for their success:

So what the heck happened?! Well, turns out Black Milk has always had a heavy hand with censoring their community. A few google searches quickly led me to this website, which documents Black Milk’s fails.

I work in community management so I understand the need for censoring certain comments. BUT you have to be very mindful when doing so. People do notice when you delete comments, so you better have a good reason (e.g. it’s negative to the community in that it is insulting other players or using expletives). In addition, it’s important to listen to the negative feedback from your community as they might have a valued point (which could lead you to changing things). You would think that Black Milk, a brand that has built itself around its community, would know this, but sadly that’s not the case. And it hurts. It hurts as a consumer and member of the community because you (I) believed the brand. Black Milk offers unique clothing for unique people; they built a brand and belief that everyone is welcome in their community*, empowering consumers to post selfies in their Black Milk gear.

But the censoring is just a product of the bigger problem: a poorly trained community team, losing sight of the brand they’ve built and what their community thinks/feels. Perhaps they’re moving in a different direction and fan girls like myself will have to find a new clothing company to geek-out on. But I sincerely hope they get their shit together and use this as a wakeup call that they need to get back on track. But then again, companies only care about their bottom-line, so until changes are made (i.e. listen to your fans; create more plus size options; add model diversity; in general, walk the walk of your brand), I’ll be keeping my wallet closed.

Stay tuned for an updated fashion post listing substitutes to Black Milk Clothing. 

*Note: Black Milk has a limited plus size selection, and even then their XL only goes up to size 18/20 (US). This is something many women have been asking for, as this FB comment shows. Please note Black Milk’s response. Not very satisfying. (Really, Black Milk? You can’t find any plus size girls willing to model for your pattern? Yeah, hard to believe.)

black milk plus size