Simons apologizes after bra backlash
MONTREAL -- The president of Quebec-based retailer La Maison Simons said he "sincerely regrets" naming his women's lingerie line after famous Canadian women, including former Supreme Court justice Beverley McLachlin.
Peter Simons said in a call with The Canadian Press that the line was meant to honour women who made historic contributions to Canada, but instead caught the ire of McLachlin, who called Simons recently because she was "quite upset" with the company's "Beverley bralette" and wanted an apology.
"The way it was structured was in poor taste...It was not acceptable the way we went about it," he said, of the line of lingerie that also sought to commemorate suffragette Nellie McClung and author Gabrielle Roy.
"It was a lack of judgment on our part, on my part."
Simons said he decided to discontinue and destroy all the materials related the line following his call with McLachlin, who retired in December after spending 28 years at the Supreme Court, including almost 18 as chief justice.
He also agreed to two demands from her: a public apology and a request to get involved with a fundraising campaign for the Cornerstone Housing for Women emergency shelter organization in Ottawa.
Simons said McLachlin was not the only person to complain about the line. By the time he spoke with McLachlin, his company received complaints on their social media accounts and saw some letters that were critical of the line in local newspapers.
"The process of realization had already started when Ms. McLachlin called me," he admitted.
The naming misstep, he said, arose when the Simons team was looking for inspiration for their new lingerie line and the team thought "why don't we look towards inspiring Canadian women that we respect and admire?"
To ensure its products don't generate anger again, Simons said he has been meeting with staff and stressing the importance of privacy and naming rights.
He also emphasized "the right to dissent" because McLachlin was neither informed or asked for approval on the products bearing her name.
Simons said that he has told staff that despite everyone having a job to do, staff should feel comfortable standing up and expressing concerns.
And he's not assigning blame.
"I take full responsibility," he said.
He has yet to reach out to McLachlin to see if she finds his conciliatory efforts satisfactory, but said he hopes to eventually express his apologies in person.
"I made a mistake and I sincerely do regret it," he said.
"I am just trying to make it right because in my heart I really wanted to celebrate (the women). These are inspiring women that have changed the history of our country."