Puma Party Promotes Council Estate Drug Dealing


It is not unusual for sportswear companies to associate their products with urban youth, shamelessly exploiting ‘street’ culture for monetary gain. This week fashion giant Puma overstepped a clear boundary hosting a ‘House of Hustle’ party in one of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods.

The party, which was thrown in partnership with JD Sports and Urban Nerds, consisted of copious references to drug dealing and “gangster” culture, encouraging attendees to participate in the world of ‘trapping.’ From start to finish the party utilized distasteful branding and demonstrated severe oversight and lack of consideration.

Invitees were sent Puma shoe boxes full of fake money and made-up business cards instructing receivers to ‘turn on the trap line’ referring to the burner phones included in the package. Upon opening the ‘burner’ phones invitees were greeted by a preloaded message reading “Yo G what u sayin today? Pass tru the House of Hustle.”

Upon arrival guests were prompted to the ‘trap house’ marked by rampant graffiti and blacked out windows. Inside tattoo artists and barbers served guests to free services while they listened to drill acts performing on stage. The entire venue attempted to communicate a ‘sketchy’ vibe with dirty mattresses strewn along the floor amongst the crowd.

In rather poor timing, Puma’s decision to glorify the world of drug dealers coincides with a crisis plaguing the working class youth of London and communities across the globe. What was not mentioned by Puma, or communicated by their party, are the very real consequences and difficulties faced by communities, especially youth, involved with drug dealing. In fact, the brand’s decision to market drug dealing as glamorous completely dismisses of the community pain, poverty, and violence so closely intertwined with the issue.

Activist Lee Jasper commented, “This misguided event, in our view, demonstrates the degree of contempt in which you hold your customer base. Thousands of black youths buy your products and at a time when London's black communities, are grieving the loss of their children, you have chosen to cynically exploit an urban drug culture that is both armed and dangerous.”

This party continues a pattern of companies commodifying the vulnerability of marginalized populations for profit. It embodies an overarching theme of the privileged reshaping cultural narratives for their own benefit.

Concerned about the party’s message, London social worker Amber Gilbert Coutts, wrote an open letter on Instagram calling out the company for their oversight . In her letter Coutts writes, “We are not even a quarter of the way through the year and in London alone there has been fifty fatal violent crimes. The vulnerable young people – both boys and girls – who are most at risk of becoming victims of this violence are those who are associated with gangs and the related drug markets.”

Users have since called for a boycott on Puma products in support of Coutts sentiments, her post gaining global traction on social media. Meanwhile Puma denies to comment, unwilling to take responsibility for the impact of their actions.

The party’s insensitivities were blatant and undeniable. The light-hearted depiction of drug culture repackaged the trauma of some people’s reality into a celebratory theme to help promote Puma products. As a company repeatedly willing to exploit urban culture to increase sales, the brand has failed to respect London’s black youths and their life experiences. As such it owes these communities- and customers alike, at the very least, an apology.

Cameron de Matteis