“Squid Game” Halloween Costumes Are Banned by Several New York Schools
By Clarissa Ward for CNN • Updated 1st April 2018
In midtown Manhattan, a group of enthusiastic buyers shuffled through the aisles of the North Beach Orchard Market in search of the latest finds, often searching through bottles and boxes of bubble wrap.
But one particular storefront not necessarily connected to the market draws a different group of buyers.
Scattered along the second floor of a seven-story building, Branded.com sells Halloween costumes you won’t see elsewhere.
Its products are brightly colored, featuring cartoon characters, explosions, guns and scantily clad bodies that would be the butt of many a Halloween joke. The primary selling point, though, is what’s included.
There’s a faux-military costume that features SpongeBob SquarePants wearing tattered fatigues, next to character versions of the Avengers wearing fatigues as well as recreations of power couples Tony Stark/Iron Man and Pepper Potts (with Pepper in tattered leather). There’s a SpongeBob costume modeled after the popular puppet from Nickelodeon, complete with a “spoiler alert” sign covering his genitals — faux or not.
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Branded, Inc. president, Marco Rojas, who was openly selling clothing-related items such as boxer shorts and spandex leggings on the first floor of the building, doesn’t dispute that the product marketing is heavy-handed.
“I definitely think it’s pretty offensive to some people,” he tells CNN Travel. “If you don’t like it, I’m not here to hurt you. But I also want to help the community, and a lot of times it’s for specific people that cannot afford to buy something.”
Although, Rojas, a US Army veteran, does go on to defend the company’s pro-active advertising efforts.
“I’ve talked to the Mayor (Bill de Blasio). I’ve talked to de Blasio’s administration about some of these products, and I do think I got pretty positive feedback on how they were dealing with it.”
Mayor de Blasio’s spokesperson denied involvement with the decision to ban the items from schools.
But the list of banned items may sound familiar to consumers, who recall the names of items that were similar in July 2016 and August 2016, when several schools in Bronxville, New York, received fliers banning them.
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And that may be a problem for Branded.com.
The Halloween costume-pricing industry is highly competitive, and shoppers have been known to boycott stores that prices items higher than others. A company that makes the same product at higher prices, even with the same quirky marketing, is deemed a very poor business model, and could be seen as in a competition with the rampant price competition.
When asked if the company was considering removing controversial items from its offerings, Rojas was adamant.
“We definitely have to keep it up, because if you stop doing that, then you lose sales,” he says. “Doing the fake genitalia, what are you going to do next?
“Whatever keeps us in business, I’m glad about that.”
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Banned this year by several New York schools, it’s not just Halloween products that are not allowed. Branded.com now only carries necklaces, and has limited its waistband sizes to provide some level of choice for buyers.
Because Rojas says this is the company’s best year, they also want to put more focus on inventing new products, as well as opening stores and brining back some of the wall displays from the high-end Brooks Brothers.