Designer bemused by tag’s French insult

SEATTLE – Clothes can make a statement, but urban-bag designer Tom Bihn is learning it’s all about the label.

A care tag that included French language insults against the president – some assume George W. Bush – mysteriously made its way onto hundreds of Bihn’s laptop bags and backpacks, drawing national media attention and sparking Internet chatter.

Now Bihn’s self-titled company has taken a message that began as an inside joke among employees and rolled out a line of “French Label” T-shirts with the enlarged label silkscreened onto the front.

The insulting label was discovered by a Seattle customer who deciphered his bag’s bilingual washing instructions. The label included the French text: “Nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n’avons pas vote pour lui.” Translated into English the tag reads: “We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn’t vote for him.” The man took a photo of the label and posted it on his Web log.

“I’m going with the idea that it’s a joke about me, the president of the company,” Bihn said Thursday, but “clearly when you use the word idiot’ and president’ in the same sentence people jump to other conclusions.”

Bihn, 43, said he knew nothing of the tag until calls and e-mails started coming in from people around the country asking for “the bag with the label.”

Bihn figures about 2,000 labels were printed and hundreds had been sewn into his bags in the past five to six months.

About 500 labels remain since the tag’s message was discovered, and Bihn continues to use them, as well as give them to customers wanting just the label.

Bihn laughed as he recalls a recent call from a man in Washington, D.C., who ordered one for a friend in France.

“The caller I.D. said the Department of Justice,’” Bihn said.

Bihn said he has gotten some complaints, but most people who call him say the labels are funny.

Mary Davis made a lunchtime purchase Thursday at Bihn’s store near Seattle’s Pioneer Square area. She’d heard the story and was buying a spruce-colored utility tote – controversial tag included – for a friend who was taking a job in Maine.

“I thought it was a scream,” said Davis, an employee with King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Bihn employs 10 people and operates the Seattle store and a factory outlet in Port Angeles, where he lives and where many of his products are made. About one-third of the bags are produced in Minnesota and Montana.

So far no one has taken responsibility and nobody’s been fired.

Besides, sales have doubled with the tag’s popularity, so Bihn isn’t worried about whose idea it was or for whom the message is intended.

“We’re not really looking real hard because it’s been really good for business. If somebody admits to doing it we’ll give ‘em a raise,” he said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Updated 2020 primary election results for Snohomish County

Returns for contested races and ballot measures, updated daily as mail-in ballots are counted.

Pursuit ends in fiery collision with dump truck in Tulalip

The man was suspected of shoplifting. He allegedly fled from Marysville police in a stolen car.

Boy, 12, now says he made up kidnapping story near Everett

A man accused of grabbing the boy was still in jail Thursday. Authorities were working to release him.

County’s Catholic schools will do distance learning this fall

The Archdiocese of Seattle will follow state guidelines and is planning for online teaching.

House candidate injured in crash on primary election day

April Berg was a passenger in a car struck by a suspected impaired driver Tuesday near Everett.

Brace for delays along U.S. 2 for bridge and road work

Projects between Snohomish and Index are set for the coming week, with single-lane traffic in spots.

Snohomish County PUD embraces ‘smart’ meters despite concerns

A handful of customers said they were worried about privacy, peak-hour rate increases and safety.

City council pauses to rethink encampments for the homeless

Everett United Church of Christ is applying to host one. It’s a 45-day process.

Most Read