PARIS — Fledgling French brand Le Léon has sparked a furor on Twitter with its new range of sweatshirts, specifically one with the word “chômeur” (“Jobless” in English) emblazoned on the front.
A Web site launched Wednesday with a collection of 12 sweaters for women and men, priced at 285 euros, or $377 at current exchange.
With the unemployment rate reaching a record high of more than 10 percent in France, the brand has been accused of cynicism and bad taste, with many comments also noting the sweater’s hefty price tag.
Le Léon founder Léon Taieb, 37, said he was “shocked by the hateful comments and tweets” that have greeted the launch. “We apologize — it wasn’t our intention to offend anyone, nor to create a buzz,” he said.
Taieb, a former graphic designer, said he positioned his brand as “anti-authoritarian” to “denounce unemployment and the gloomy situation in France in general.”
The brand’s tagline is “La contestation de la monarchie absolue” (“Against absolute monarchy” in English) as a nod to the French revolution. Le Léon’s logo features a béret and baguettes.
The sweaters are handmade in Nepal. “We were looking for a factory in France, but it would have brought up the retail price to 1,000 euros ($1,327 at current exchange),” said Taieb.
Other sweaters feature slogans such as “Le Cassou Laid” and “Rockfort” — word plays based on the French dish cassoulet and Roquefort cheese. Both of these will go on sale at Colette later this month, a spokesman for the Paris concept store said.
He added that Colette never planned to carry the “Jobless” sweater, which has also been withdrawn from sale on Le Léon’s Web site.
In the day since it has launched, the site http://www.leleon.fr has received 10,000 visits, but so far no sweater has been sold, Taieb said.