How I Challenged Retailers Selling ‘Cute but Psycho’ Products

by Phil Hill
cute but psycho

I’ve had mental health issues for the past twelve years. This summer, I became inspired to become a mental health Vlogger and discuss some of the things surrounding the negative portrayals associated with such. 

I nervously started posting, but as time went on it became a little easier to sprawl my face over social media and talk about some of my most private feelings.

Along the way, I decided to make a few videos discussing some of the mental health terms that are thrown around far too casually. ​The term ‘Psycho‘ is commonly used and often leads to offending and miseducating people. It seems this serious mental health disorder (Psychopathy) is slowly being turned into an adjective to depict people that ‘flip out’ when things don’t go there way. I’m no psychiatrist, but even I know that’s not the definition of a Psychopath.

When I raised the topic in my video, people began to respond, so I decided to do a bit more research. Not only had I seen the term ‘Cute But Psycho‘ on countless meme’s, but in my quest I stumbled upon a number of clothing companies selling tops with these slogans, ‘Not Cute, Just Psycho’ and ‘Cute But Psycho, But Cute’.

It goes without saying, this did not sit well with me. There was no way I was going to sit back and do nothing. ​​
​Despite my fury, I didn’t see any benefit in kicking off and I certainly would stoop to the level of name-calling. I simply asked these companies if they understood the definition of a Psychopath and if they understood the offence they could be causing to the mental health community. I also highlighted the fact that they wouldn’t mock a physical illness, (i.e. a top saying ‘Cute But Cancerous’), so why mock mental health?

Although I dreamt these companies would abandon their offensive clothing, I thought they’d only listen to a huge viral campaign, not some random person they’d never heard of. Luckily I was wrong.
I messaged a company called Redressed and despite it being out of office hours, they replied within half an hour and agreed the clothes were in poor taste. Within one hour the clothes had been removed from their website. I was buzzing!

I started to email other brands including Boohoo and Missguided, but things weren’t always so easy. I was getting pretty fed up of the same old messages stating ‘We didn’t mean to cause any offence and have passed your feedback onto the relevant department’. I wouldn’t hear back for weeks on end.
Whether I had to message these companies on multiple occasions or go to the extent of contacting their CEO, eventually, they decided to either stop selling the products, de-list them or discontinue them. I was on a roll!
Unfortunately, the more I researched, the more I found. I began to see these slogans branching out onto other products such as makeup bags and pencil cases, this time on Not On The High Street. But after a series of emails, the company decided to de-list them from their website. Result!

Nearly all of the companies I contacted were able to recognise the offence their items could cause and to my surprise, acted accordingly. There was however one company throughout all of this, who just wouldn’t budge; Pink Boutique. They refused to get rid of the products and coincidentally started posting lots of images of them during this period. They blocked me on Instagram and when I rang them they told me I had an “isolated view”. I was furious!

Prior to this phone call I had started a petition against such companies. I only intended using it on the off chance one of them would say no to my suggestion of removing these items. With over 100 signatures, I was ready to send it over to Pink Boutique (proving I didn’t have an isolated view) when a perfect and cliche moment of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ presented itself. I had recently made a connection at The Huffington Post and they decided to interview me about everything I had been doing – I was stoked!

​Once the article was published I was reading it and to my very pleasant surprise, Huffington had contacted PB asking for a statement! They gave what would probably appear to most to be a heartfelt apology and a promise of removing the products with immediate effect! An empty apology if you ask me – just a tactical move to try and make themselves look better after they had just been exposed as an unethical company, but hey, at least I got the result I was after!

Since this interview, I’ve also had the honor of doing interviews with the Bucks Free Press, The Royal Borough Observer and BBC Three Counties Radio! ​

It’s been a very busy few months for me fighting for something I feel so strongly about and I still have more companies to contact. But hopefully, I’ve made a few people think twice about mental health and shown them it is not OK to make money from trivialising this subject and trying passing it off as ‘fashion’.

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1 comment

Kira Edwards February 26, 2019 - 2:55 pm

Love this article, thank you for speaking up about the issue. seen as you are on a roll would you please consider doing the same with Shein. it is a clothing store and many pieces of their clothing have the same comment on them. Sending you good wishes.

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