The Most Shocking Stories And Scandals Of The Fashion Industry

Fashion Isn’t Always Pretty

The fashion industry is one of the most captivating, scandalous parts of modern society. Gorgeous clothing and romantic backdrops often cover tragedies and controversies of some of the world’s best fashion designers. From murder to mayhem, here’s the most shocking stories and scandals from top influencers in the fashion world.

Gianni Versace

The 1997 murder of designer Gianni Versace is one of the best-known tragedies of the fashion world. Versace was shot outside his Miami home. The shooter, Andrew Cunanan took his own life a week later, after killing at least five others. To this day, it’s unknown why Cunanan chose to take the designer’s life.

Donatella Versace

After her brother died, Donatella Versace took over his fashion line. But her reign isn’t without its struggles and scandals. Versace nearly ran the company into the ground at the start, almost succumbing to harsh criticism from her peers about her leadership. She also went to rehab to deal with a life-threatening addiction to cocaine.

H & M’s Sweatshirt Controversy

The mass retailer H & M is no stranger to controversy. It found itself mired in trouble in early 2018. This time, the issue was a children’s sweatshirt that said “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The company chose to use a black child as a model for the shirts, which drew sharp criticism from many people for its racist undertones. H & M responded with an apology in the New York Times, saying that it had removed the product from its offerings.

American Apparel

American Apparel is infamous for its various controversies. The brand’s scandals include several near bankruptcies, taking advantage of children, and the now famous model contest exclusively for plus-sized women. The winner, disgusted with the competition, actually chose to submit raunchy photos of her eating to prove a point.


Zara clearly acted in poor taste when it released a children’s t-shirt resembling a concentration camp t-shirt. The outrage and disgust from customers immediately caused Zara to remove the t-shirt from its stores, as well as the website. The shirt was white and navy striped, with a golden six-point start that clearly looked like the Star of David.

Karl Lagerfeld

The creator of Chanel and Fendi famously chose to criticize plus-sized women, mocking British singer Adele for her weight. His fat-shaming, though terrible, wasn’t a big deal for Lagerfeld, who’s known for speaking his mind. He even said that Adele’s eventual weight loss was because of his crass, insensitive statements.

Sports Illustrated

Photos of Robyn Lawley, an Australian model, sparked outrage when Sports Illustrated called her a plus-sized model. Lawley, a size 12, falls under the average size of 14 for most American women. Robyn didn’t defend the magazine’s choice but expressed a desire to drop labels and focus on celebrating women of all sizes and backgrounds.

Kate Moss

Kate Moss, once one of the most famous and influential models, saw her career vanish after she was taped snorting cocaine. Various brands such as Chanel and H&M cut her from their campaigns, costing the model millions of dollars in work. At the time, she was also working for Burberry, who ultimately chose to cut ties with her as well.

Kate Spade

Photo Credits: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Over the years, Kate Spade’ built an empire off of her desire to make sleek, practical handbags. It seemed like she was on top of the world until the unthinkable happened. On June 5, 2018, Spade was found dead in her Manhattan apartment. She had hung herself, leaving the fashion industry and her supporters to mourn her death but celebrate her life and her impact on fashion.

Forever 21

Forever 21, known for it’s quirky, eclectic yet affordable pieces, went under fire when it made t-shirts for the city of Compton. The shirts had photos of artist/rapper Ice Cube and celebrated a “Straight Outta Compton” lifestyle that customers found extremely offensive. Forever 21 quickly got rid of the line, in response to the public outcry.

Terry Richardson

Famous photographer Terry Richardson’s reputation of attempting to seduce young, aspiring models during his shoots has resulted in multiple scandals. Richardson is known for acting overly flirtatious with impressionable girls, attempting to trade sexual favors in exchange for a leg up in the modeling industry.


H&M apologized for a green jumpsuit they designed. The apology followed customers pointing out similarities with what Kurdish female soldiers wore while fighting ISIS. Not wanting to cause any additional controversy, H&M’s removal of the jumpsuit and multiple apologies saved the beloved brand from a more serious scandal.

The Gap

The Gap is one of many brands who have either knowingly or unknowingly sold clothing made by child workers in India. The children, as young as ten years old in some cases, face horrific working conditions and severely low wages. The discovery led to The Gap banning all clothing made by children from their stores.

Winona Ryder

Over the past few years, Winona Ryder has come under severe scrutiny for her now famous 2001 shoplifting incident. Though she later said she was researching for an upcoming role, security footage of a Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles clearly showed Ryder stealing pricey goods. She was convicted of the crime in 2002.

Kenneth Cole

Kenneth Cole faced public outcry when he used the 2011 anti-government protests in Cairo for his own marketing agenda. Cole chose to tweet that the crowds were actually for the launch of his new spring collection. The brand’s image was tarnished, as many people saw the remarks to be extremely offensive.


Models are always under scrutiny for their frail appearances and tiny waists. Popular brand Topshop was blasted when they featured Codie Young, an extremely thin model, in one of their ads. Young posed in oversized clothing, her legs unrealistically twig-like. Not wanting to cause any additional outcry, Topshop chose to swap the picture.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana are often finding themselves in a controversy. The duo was in hot water when Italian authorities realized they were purposely avoiding paying taxes. The famous pair’s jail sentence was up to 18 months. Although it looked shady, the two denied the evasion and pushed back on the sentence.

Dolce and Gabbana, Again

Another Dolce and Gabbana scandal came to light when a pair of their 2013 earrings were a little too reminiscent of Blackamoor images. Instead of giving into the scandal, Dolce and Gabbana pointed out that the oversized earrings were based on Moorish figures. The look, they insisted, wasn’t insensitive.

Just Dolce This Time

Dolce severely offended Sir Elton John when he made hurtful comments about children conceived through IVF. Dolce’s statement that IVF kids were “synthetic”, led to the famous singer and his husband, who had their two children through IVF, called for a ban of Dolce and Gabbana clothing.


Disney, while family-friendly in nature, has a dark side. The brand has been accused of utilizing sweatshop workers to make their apparel, paying them a salary of mere cents. On these wages, workers in Haiti, for example, barely make a monthly salary of twenty dollars. The company is also known for their unfair, low pay of the employees that work at their theme parks.

Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret, already known for its catalogs of airbrushed, unrealistically photoshopped women, faced further outcry of an insensitive 2014 ad campaign. The campaign, dubbed “The Perfect Body” was seen as continuing the long-time ignorance of the physical appearance of real, flawed women. The brand switched the name.

L’Wren Scott

L’Wren Scott announced that she was discontinuing her long-time fashion label, briefly before taking her own life. The designer hung herself, just before it came out that the reason she was ending her line was because she couldn’t pay her employees or vendors. The brand was in severe debt, owing about $6 million.


Nike, while the champion of athletes, hasn’t always treated its international workers as such. The brand has come under fire for the terrible conditions of factories worldwide, as well as poor treatment of their foreign workers. The brand didn’t confirm these accusations for years, finally adapting transparency and making changes.

Alexander McQueen

Designer Alexander McQueen was suffering from depression during the death of his mother, resulting in his untimely death. McQueen, who was 40 years old at the time, intentionally took sleep pills and cocaine, as well as tranquilizers, in order to commit suicide. His siblings continued to struggle, saying they have been denied access to his assets.


In a famous 2011 Super Bowl commercial, reality star Kim Kardashian got in shape with the help of Sketcher Shape-ups. The sneakers, which supposedly had features that helped people lose weight and get healthier, actually did not. The FTC revealed the fabrication and the brand admitted fault. Even worse – they were also marketed to young girls!

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters faced a similar controversy to Zara with a tapestry with similarities to a WWII Holocaust uniform. The uniform was worn by homosexual prisoners, which freatured grey and white stripes with pink triangles. As the public, especially the LGBT community, took offense to the resemblance, it was removed.

Urban Outfitters, Again

Urban Outfitters also came under fire for a sweatshirt that appeared to intentionally have blood stains and bullet holes all over it. The sweatshirt also had the emblem for Kent State, a university that was actually known for the devastating 1970 murder of four students. Urban Outfitters removed it from their stores.

Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe

While Nicole Richie and her personal stylist Rachel Zoe were once close, Nicole Richie decided to let her go in 2006 because of her health issues. Richie continued to allude that Zoe, who she did not actually name, was projecting an eating disorder on Richie. Richie also mentioned Zoe’s eating preferences.

Rachel Zoe and Brad Goreski

Rachel Zoe, in addition to feuding with Nicole Richie, also famously feuded with her old assistant Brad Goreski. Goreski, once very close to Zoe, angered her when he chose to also become a stylist. He reportedly copied the style of her famous reality show, “The Rachel Zoe Project,” also stealing clients from the designer.


Wal-Mart, already accused of paying their employees poorly, came under fire with the revelation of Kathie Lee Gifford’s fashion line origin. The executive director of the National Labor Committee Education Fund exposed that Gifford’s line was made by Honduran workers in their early teens.

Tory Burch

Tory Burch and her once husband, Chris Burch, went through a hostile lawsuit after their decision to divorce. Chris Burch’s line, while a more affordable, versatile clothing line in comparison to his ex wife’s, apparently was being set back by Tory Burch. The two’s feud inevitably was for nothing, as Chris declared bankruptcy, ending his line.


Abercrombie & Fitch, once the “it” line for high school and junior high students, faced controversy for offensive statements about their preferred customers. Instead of appealing to all students, in 2013, CEO Mike Jeffries said the brand sought popular, good-looking kids to wear the clothing line.

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein wasn’t too popular after their ad featuring pop-star Justin Bieber was supposedly over photoshopped. The media’s speculation was of Bieber’s arms, which were suspected to be exaggerated. Justin’s fans, however, didn’t seem to take issue with the allegations.

Michele Savoia

Michele Savoia tragically died after drowning in the Hudson River, thought to have accidentally fallen into the river while intoxicated. Savoia was missing for days, and after the discovery of his body, investigators concluded that Savoia was trying to climb aboard his yacht when he fell.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell has had involvement in multiple scandals involving her famous temperament. British Airways no longer allows the model to fly with them, after she spit on officials, in outrage about losing bags. Many family members, friends, and employees of the model have also claimed she assaulted them.

Miley Cyrus

When Cyrus started to make changes in her appearance and behavior, the public was a little less than supportive. The singer was photographed taking drugs, and her provocative performance at the VMA’s damaged her pristine image. The outcry continued when she modeled half-nude for Vanity Fair.


Chip Wilson, the co-founder of women’s fitness line Lululemon, left the company after seriously offending women. After their yoga pants were thought to be too revealing, Wilson blamed the too sheer leggings on women’s thighs themselves. As the pants were tight, Wilson concluded that some women stretched the pants out because they were too big.

John Galliano

While in Paris in 2011, John Galliano of Dior made anti-Semitic comments such as “I love Hitler” to other tourists. However, the Italian tourists made a video, which was released to the public. France charged him of the crime, resulting in Galliano being fired from Dior. He also was forced to pay 6,000 euros in damages.


Gucci has experienced a number of scandals, shrouding the brand in mystery and intrigue. The 1995 murder of Maurizio Gucci was the result of a hit ordered by his ex-wife, Patrizia because of her dissatisfaction with their divorce settlement. Her psychic, who knew about the hit, turned her in and she was arrested.

Isabella Blow

Isabella Blow, who was the mentor to legendary designer Alexander McQueen, took her life in a similar fashion as he. After making several attempts to take her life, in 2007, Blow died after drinking a half pint of weed killer. Originally, her husband said his wife had tragically died of cancer.

Kendall Jenner

In a recent scandal, model Kendall Jenner was heavily criticized after she did a photo shoot depicting a ballerina. Actual dancers expressed outrage and offense, stating that Jenner made light of their extremely challenging sport. Jenner was photographed playfully dancing around, which the dancing community found to be inappropriate.