With knife crime in London currently at a critical point, Puma has come under fire for a party it held last week that critics say “glamorised” council estate drug dealing.
Puma partnered with JD Sports and marketing agency Urban Nerds, to host a party named ‘House Of Hustle’ in an abandoned Soho townhouse last Thursday (April 5), the same night that saw six teenagers stabbed in four separate knife attacks across London.
According to reports by Dazed writer Emma Elizabeth Davidson, guests were sent Puma shoe boxes full of fake £50 notes, burner phones and business cards that instructed invitees to “turn on the trap line”. When switched on, the phones showed a message that read: “Yo G what u sayin today? Pass tru the House of Hustle.” The party itself featured DJ sets, drill acts, graffiti covering the walls, blacked-up windows and mattresses on the floor.
Puma has been hit with a backlash over the party, with London-based social worker Amber Gilbert Coutts taking the lead by writing an open letter to the company, criticising it for “glamorising” drug dealing and calling the party “careless exploitation” that “trivialises the horrendous lived experiences of many of the young people you shamelessly attempted to imitate”.
Coutts said the party’s conception was “far from cool,” adding: “adolescent drug dealing so often results in violence, exacerbated deprivation, and community pain”.
“As someone who has lived through the things they are glamorising here, I really appreciate this post which is something I could have never articulated. It’s grim to see my childhood used as a marketing tool when living through it was traumatic and still haunts myself and my family today!”
Read the full letter here
We (luckily) didn’t get an invite to this event. But with drug-dealing and gang crime no laughing matter, should well establish sports brands really be hanging on to its coattails just to sell some trainers? Hundreds of lives are directly or indirectly affected by gang-related crime in London and all over the world. With the latest knife-related murders in the capital still in our thoughts brands should be using this time to promote peace, knowledge and education about gang crime, helping these individuals effect by it and showing them there is more to life. On the night in question, there were six stabbings in 90 minutes in the capital – including that of a 13-year-old boy. Amber says that it’s the vulnerable young people associated with gangs and the related drug market who are most at risk of becoming victims of violence.
Puma has not yet responded to the criticism.