It begins early Monday morning. An email lands in the mailboxes of many editorial offices in which the German sporting goods company Adidas announces a "revolutionary plan" under its new CEO Björn Gulden. The new initiative "Own the Reality" is the most ambitious "social and environmental responsibility plan ever implemented by a major brand." A new co-CEO - the former Cambodian textile worker Vay Ya Nak Phoan - is to help with the reorientation.
Sounds too good to be true? That's right, because the New York artist collective Yes Men likes to play with reality in its actions to take aim at companies and organisations like the World Trade Organisation. The "Adidas" corporate message they wrote imitated the marketing tone and superlatives of these kinds of texts, but exaggerated them so much that they also parodied them at the same time.
It became clear at the latest Berlin Fashion Week that the message had to be a prank. A show began in the multi-label store Platte on Monday afternoon, in which Adidas presented a collection called 'Realitywear' in line with the new initiative.
The supposed new manager, but in fact a former seamstress, Vay Ya Nak Phoan was there herself. She recounted how in the first days of her work in a textile factory she was not allowed to go to the toilet until she had finished sewing 20 pieces of clothes. Then, visibly battered models walked down the catwalk wearing costumes made from upcycled Adidas garments, some handing out vouchers with inscriptions such as "The perfect gift - finally pay our workers".
With the action at the beginning of Berlin Fashion Week, the artists not only denounced the exploitative mechanisms or the marketing and greenwashing of the fashion industry. In the end, the media also got their money's worth. Some of them picked up on the false press release, thus falling for the artists' stunt and revealing how close truth and false news can be in a fast-moving media world.
In the meantime, the sporting goods company has clearly distanced itself from the campaign. A spokesman for Adidas AG confirmed to FashionUnited that the press release in question was not sent out by the company.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.