A T-shirt company that experienced massive backlash for an offensive printed shirt went out of business last week. Three months ago, online T-shirt retailer Solid Gold Bomb received widespread criticism for posting a shirt on Amazon.com that read "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot." Other shirts included "Keep Calm and Grope On," "Keep Calm and Knife Her" and other variations of the British World War II slogan.
"It's my fault, and I paid dearly," company founder Michael Fowler said. "My life's work. Twenty years I've been building this up."
The shirts were the result of automation software that combines common terms from word lists and turns them into T-shirt catch phrases. In Solid Gold Bomb's case, the images are posted at Amazon, where they get printed on demand once the T-shirts are purchased. By using the program, Fowler had expanded his company's potential prints into the millions. But neither he nor anyone else in the company caught the offensive slogans until after the T-shirts had been put up for sale.
Reaction was swift – Solid Gold Bomb's sales plummeted and the company founder continued to receive death threats, even after posting an apology shortly after the incident. "As a father, husband, brother and son, I would never promote such product," wrote Fowler in his apology.
The 41-year-old (an American who lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and three children) had to immediately fire half his staff and put $35,000 of his own money into the company. Shipping problems earlier this month then led Fowler to lay off the company's three remaining employees and close the doors on his business. He says he is planning to start another T-shirt operation in Melbourne.