Adidas Says Berlin Fashion Week Launch and Co-CEO Announcements are Fake

Pedestrians walk past a large Adidas logo at the German multinational sportswear store.

Miguel Candela | SOPA images | LightRocket via Getty Images

Several press releases allegedly sent by Adidas about the start of a Berlin Fashion Week, the treatment of workers abroad and other issues related to its business structure were, according to the company, falsified.

“We do not comment on these fake emails/postings,” Claudia Lange, the retailer’s vice president of external communications, said in an email to CNBC.

A fake publication said Vay Ya Nak Phoan, described as a former Cambodian factory worker and union leader, had been appointed co-CEO to ensure ethical manufacturing practices.

The Yes Men, an activist group that has in the past created parodies to draw attention to how companies are responding to social issues, confirmed to CNBC that they were behind the releases along with other groups. The groups hope Adidas will sign the Pay Your Workers contract, which advocates for garment workers’ pay and the right to associate.

“After several scandals, it seems like a great thing for them to turn the page,” said a member of The Yes Men, identified as Mike Bonanno.

Two of the fake press releases claimed Adidas was launching new clothing called REALITYWEAR by celebs Pharrell Williams, Bad Bunny and Philllllthy. The hoax publication, which marked the debut of Berlin Fashion Week on 1/16, claimed it was part of a push for a renewed focus on workers’ rights and material sourcing.

Adidas sets out its position on workers’ rights on a dedicated Workplace Standards page and formulates its code of conduct on workers’ health, safety, pay and “Responsible Sourcing”.

The Guardian first reported that The Yes Men were behind the campaign.

The multifaceted Yes Men campaign also referenced its now-defunct partnership with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has come under fire for anti-Semitic remarks in recent months, and featured a company “response” that was fabricated Answers to points raised in the first publications.

— CNBC’s Gabrielle Fonrouge contributed to the coverage

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