Is Lorna Jane the new Pete Evans?
Lorna Jane has added another problematic feather to their metaphorical hat with claims that their activewear can repel COVID-19 germs. The brand, already known for their specifically non-inclusive sizing range, and overpriced leggings, is now going to court for what might turn out to be an offence in a court of law rather than just the court of public opinion.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking Lorna Jane to court, over their 'anti-virus activewear' which claims to protect customers from viruses and bacteria.
In July, Lorna Jane released a range which claimed its anti-virus activewear had been sprayed with LJ Shield, a substance they believed protected wearers from pathogens (which include viruses, bacteria, mould, and fungi). The Lorna Jane website, stores and social media platforms advertised the slogan, 'Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So'.
The consumer watchdog has initiated federal court proceedings against the company, alleging false and misleading claims, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has already fined Lorna Jane $40,000 for a range of offences, including not obtaining the TGA's approval prior to advertising the claims.
A scroll through the Lorna Jane website will give you surprisingly little in terms of proof or certifications for LJ Shield, with the website simply stating that Intertek 'who conducts total quality assurance testing, inspecting, and certification services proved a 99% reduction of bacteria on the fabric tested that used LJSHIELD technology'. There is a startling lack of certification badges or detailed information.
Notably, LJ Shield claims to protect the wearer for the entire lifespan of the garment, in stark contrast to many other protective textile brands. New Zealand competitor Avirowear, who are certified by multiple international bodies, and produce protective face masks, claim that their antimicrobial properties only last for 15 washes.
A favourite quote of mine comes from Dr Harry Nespolon who told Hack:
'The only thing that will be 'terminated' by the 'shield particles' is the money in your bank account.'
Lorna Jane is no stranger to controversy, having been publicly called out in 2015 when they advertised for an admin position for a woman who had to be a 'size small'. They even clarified the height (over 165cm), and hips, waist, and bust measurements. LJ later spoke out to 'clarify' that the only reason a size was included in the job ad was because the successful candidate would also be an in-house fit model, providing feedback on size small clothing.
Director and Founder Lorna Jane Clarkson herself has publicly voiced a refusal to stock a wider size range in her stores, saying that there is 'no demand' for plus-sized activewear. Which, 1. is blatantly untrue, and 2. a stark contrast to their company statement that 'being healthy doesn't have to be about finding more time, eating less or trying to look like anyone else. We're here to make you feel good about where you are right now, while cheering you on to become a fitter, faster and stronger version of yourself!'
The exclusionary sizing range and rhetoric around the Lorna Jane brand has been rampant since the company first started in the 80s, but they didn't stop at body shaming, oh no! LJ has taken a leaf out of Pete Evans' handbook with the alleged virus-killing mist. It's only a matter of time until they begin speaking out against the COVID-19 vaccine, saying the government is trying to sabotage their revolutionary attempt to sell LJ Shield technology!
With more than 100 stores around Australia and New Zealand, it is an absolute atrocity for a well-known brand to market deceptive statements like this. The loyal base of consumers of these products would fairly assume the company would have solid evidence to backup the virus-killing claims, thus this advertising poses a significant health risks to wearers who may genuinely believe these products are anti-virus.
As further evidence of the extent of the advertising, the marketing strategy for this line of activewear included the following:
'With Lorna Jane Shield on our garments it meant that we were completely eliminating the possibility of spreading any deadly viruses.'
Notably, director Lorna Jane Clarkson is alleged to have been involved in the conduct and launch of the Shield line of products. Lorna Jane has released a statement confirming it is prepared to defend the claims in court. Let's see what they have to say.