I was on Twitter this morning and read this tweet from Alex Veronelli, the Product Manager and Public Relations specialist for the Italian thread company, Aurifil.
I tweeted back, suggesting that this felt to me like an unprofessional thing to say on social media, given his role in the company. Veronelli replied, “On socials I prefer to be genuine, exposing outright all my defects & vices, rather than to be settled and look forcedly professional.”
I replied that given Aurifil’s predominantly female audience this remark still seemed unkind to me. Veronelli wrote back, saying “You’re right, but luckily by this time my readers are pretty vaccinated to my racy and witty posts.” Still, I’m not sure I feel the tweet was witty at all.
My back and forth with Veronelli on Twitter seemed to open up a floodgate of feeling about him among sewists and quilters online. In minutes, dozens of women began messaging me and emailing me with complaints about Veronelli’s behavior. Virginia Johnson, owner of the quilt shop, Gather Here, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shared this tweet of Veronelli’s with me. She said, “This one was when I told the Robert Kaufman rep I wouldn’t stock the Carolyn Friedlander Aurifil collection. I’m a married, female small business owner who isn’t giving money to a sexist.”
Designer, photographer, and craft book author, Caro Sheridan sent me a series of tweets from Alex that bothered her. Here are just a few:
“I honestly don’t understand how in an industry where most of the customers are women how this behavior stands,” Caro said. “It is gross. And sexist.”
Alex Veronelli is not only the Product Manager and Public Relations specialist for Aurifil, he is also one of Aurifil’s shareholders. His father, Adolpho Veronelli, co-founded Aurifil in 1983 and Alex Veronelli has worked for the compay since 1990. In 2007, Veronelli helped establish Aurifil USA, based in Illinois, in an effort to gain a foothold in the U.S. market for quilting threads. Aurifil threads are now very popular among quilt designers and sewing bloggers. Many top fabric designers have come out with thread collections with Aurifil, choosing quilting threads that match the colors in their fabric lines.
Quilts Inc., the tradeshow company that puts on Quilt Market each fall and spring, interviewed Veronelli for their eNewsletter, describing him this way, “The charming, exceedingly Italian Veronelli, who has built an impressive online presence that gives a real face (and, many women would attest, not a bad looking one at that!) to the Aurifil brand.”
When asked about his popularity on social media, Veronelli told them, “You have also to consider that I am bad Italian boy that parachuted down in the quilt world, as you well know [laughs]. And the quilt world is lacking of bad Italian boys, so this made it easier for me to stand out from the crowd and be easily remembered and recognized.”
In November of 2013, as way to celebrate Aurifil’s 30th birthday, the company decided to jump on the “HeyGirl” internet meme that originally involved putting loving captions on photos of Ryan Gosling. They released a series of photos of Veronelli, inviting quilters and sewists to create HeyGirl captions to be entered into a contest. Veronelli seemed to relish in the attention. He has collected the #HeyGirl images on one of his own Pinterest boards for easy perusing. Here area few:
Veronelli is also active on Instagram where he posts pictures of himself traveling to quilt shops and shows around the country. Search his hashtag #aurigirl and you’ll uncover dozens of photos of Veronelli with female designers on his lap. You’re free to view them on Instagram by searching for the #aurigirl hashtag. (Note that I had previously posted a collage of photos from the hashtag here in the post, but have been asked by one of the women pictured to please remove them, which I promptly did.)
When I confronted Veronelli about these photos, saying that I felt it was inappropriate to ask an employee or co-worker to sit on your lap, he responded, “I agree. In fact, I would never ask something like that to an employee. None of them is an employee of mine.” True, none of the women pictured here or hashtagged as an #aurigirl on Instagram is a direct employee of Aurifil, but many have thread collections with the company, use Aurifil threads in their quilts, and promote the company on their blogs. I can’t speak for them, but I know if he asked me to sit on his lap I would feel obligated to do so while also very awkward about the request.
I personally don’t want to stand behind a company that chooses to represent itself this way. To me, it feels sexualized and misogynistic. I realize that there may be a European cultural norm at work here that I don’t understand, but nonetheless Alex Veronelli’s behavior makes me personally uncomfortable.
+July 26 8:00 am EST: A few things have happened. First, a designer who participated in the #aurigirl campaign and sat on Alex Veronelli’s lap emailed me and said she did “feel an obligation to sit on his lap and take a photo.” Several others have emailed me about their personal discomfort, but said because they actively do business with the company they don’t want to say anything publicly for fear of making people there angry.
Another designer who also sat on Alex’s lap emailed me to ask that I remove any mention of the #aurigirl hashtag from this post. She felt that “even mentioning the #aurigirls hashtag could be read as ‘shame on these women.'” I am not going to remove mention of the hashtag because it has played an important role in my view of Alex Veronelli’s online behavior, and I certainly hope nobody who sees the photos thinks, “shame on these women.” That sort of thinking is blaming the victim and is not acceptable to me.
And finally, as I mentioned in the post, I had originally included a collage of photos of designers sitting on Alex’s lap. I removed them at the request of one of those designers. I would like to replace it with at least one of the #aurigirl photos. If you’ve had your picture taken in Alex’s lap as part of that campaign and would be willing to have it reposted here, please get in touch. Thank you.+
++July 28 12:20 pm EST: All images of designers sitting in Alex Veronelli’s lap were removed from Alex Veronelli’s and Kim Niedzwiecki’s Instagram feeds overnight. Searching the #aurigirl hashtag will now only bring you images of designers sitting on Alex’s lap that they’ve posted themselves. Alex has also deleted all of the most recent offensive jokes from his Twitter feed. I feel like there’s been progress.++
+++August 6 7:00 am EST: I just received an email from Elena Gregotti, the CEO of Aurifil USA telling me that Alex has issued an official response via Facebook. If you have comments or thoughts to share with Alex this is an opportunity to do so directly.+++
Abby-I am so glad someone has finally brought this up publicly. When those pictures from quilt market started showing up, I was horrified. And I felt bad for some of those women-they looked genuinely uncomfortable. I don’t think the quilting world needs an Italian bad boy. Thank you so much for putting this out there.
It seems to me if all you ladies have this much time to tweet about Veronelli, no one is sewing! Leave the poor guy alone and get a sense of humor.
I don’t know that any of us are tweeting about this. Let’s get one thing clear, this is not some “poor guy”. He’s deliberately involved himself in a controversial marketing campaign, he’s not some shrinking violet and we’re not bullying him, we’re intitled to our opinions. Sense of humour? Do you laugh at racist jokes too?
Mrs. H says
“….And I felt bad for some of those women-they looked genuinely uncomfortable…..”
If those women were uncomfortable then they should have refused to sit on his lap or to participate in any of Alex Veronelli’s dirty behavior. They are grown women (presumably) and have the ability to speak their mind. They victimized themselves if they did not like participating in his kinky and inapropriate behavior.
As a “grown women” with a strong belief in personal responsibility, I just want to say it’s not as easy as it sounds to speak out in the moment. I’ve been in a similar position and for me there was some kind of lag time, when my brain was in a fog trying to digest the request, when I just did what I was told.
Shelley Gardner says
“As a “grown women” with a strong belief in personal responsibility, I just want to say it’s not as easy as it sounds to speak out in the moment..”
Yeah, it is! You simply say “Um, no thank you, I’m uncomfortable with that”. Period. Know who you are, and what you want BEFORE some guy hits that tease spot in your brain and you are tempted. I raised my girls to be vocal about their boundaries, and that’s the only way they are protected. If you don’t speak up for yourself, then it’s kinda pointless to blame the guy alone when he crosses the boundaries.
Thanks for honestly stating that Linda. There are so many factors to consider in this discussion and putting blame on the women in the photos has made me feel uncomfortable. I try to imagine their situation; having just met, laughed with and becoming comfortable with this important business partner, finding him such a professional and gentleman. Then to be asked to sit on his lap for a photo. By a woman on his marketing team eek! The confusion in your head; not wanting to offend this nice man you only just met and things were going do so well. Not wanting to be “one of those woman” who are seen as overly sensitive or with no sense of humor. And not wanting to hurt your career especially after you just came of feeling that you helped it a second ago. No one else there to back you up with their fist in the air “girl power”. I can only imagine how quickly one would justify the decision; so many others have done it, it’s just a joke, they didn’t make me feel like I had to, it’s not like we’re doing anything else, he’s a perfect gentleman, he’s uncomfortable too and they know what they’re doing.
Although the responses proberbly have offended the woman in the pictures I think the general concensus is that the campaign itself is wrong and a bit shameful. The persons involved have played their part for various reasons but it’s beyond them now. I think it is important for this community to say this is unacceptable and they do not support it nor will they allow it to continue unchecked. This will empower persons like yourself who find themselves in compromising situations to know that they are not alone.
50 Shades of Aurifil?
I’m so happy I’m not the only one who has been raising an eyebrow at the lap pictures. I feel it’s gone too far, the pictures are a bit awkward. He was very professional at a quilt shop presentation, but shortly after I stopped reading his tweets.
Aurifil threads sell themselves, no need to jump on the “sex sells” bandwagon.
Can you imagine if the presidents of sewing machine brands display some if the same behavior? Ugh
Thanks for this Abby. I was just talking with someone about this. She was telling me how amazing the thread is, and I’m sure it is. But we both agreed that the online presence Alex gives the company is just icky.
Remember when Rodney Dangerfield told all those same jokes in 1976? Yep. They weren’t funny then, and they still not funny 40 years later. If only there were a vaccine for mindless, sexist “jokes.”
Bravo, Abby, for addressing this publicly. Too many of us are squicked out by him privately and only talk about it amongst ourselves. The Aurigirl thing is what really offends me. Taking accomplished designers and talented quilters and reducing them to some object is infuriating. And the reason so many folks stay quiet is because they don’t want to rock the boat. Whereas he doesn’t give a rat’s ass who he offends, no one wants to offend him because that means risking any chance of design jobs for his company or taking a chance on ever having him recognize your work and talk about it (and he does have cache in the quilting world). And people want free fancy thread.
I’ll admit I love working with Aurifil when I quilt. It comes in a dazzling array of colors and a wide variety of weights. Yet I just cannot bring myself to spend the money on a company whose mouthpiece is so disrespectful and gross.
Eirlys Penn says
…European cultural norm…? Well, not in this part of Europe! I hadn’t seen any of this activity before you pointed it out, Abby, and am astonished that a thread company in 2014 is pursuing this kind of PR line. Quite incredible, and surely misguided. I will watch developments with interest. Thanks for the heads-up.
Indeed, not any part of Europe I know…
I actually found that remark about it maybe being a European cultural norm a bit offensive. We’re not barbarians over here and we don’t all live in the 70s. Europe is civilised. Though I’d also like to point out he’s Italian – whilst Britian and Italy are both in Europe, they are not the same country. Europe isn’t a federal republic like the States you know.
Perhaps I’m speaking out of turn here, but I did not read this as any kind of personal attack on Europeans or their culture. Quite to the contrary I thought it was appropriate to point out that Americans don’t have final say on what is considered appropriate. Take a look at tipping for example; in the U.S. it is considered downright rude not to tip a server. In some European locales, tipping would be an insult. Personally, and as an American, I think Americans have become entirely too sensitive to political correctness. I simply read Abby’s comments as “maybe” in some European locations it’s more acceptable to be “cheeky” than it is in the generally conservative U.S. quilting community.
I’m not American.
I took the “European cultural norm” as a nice way of saying Italian men are known for their enthusiastic embrace of females! They certainly have a reputation for being quite vocal and physical in expressing their admiration of females.
So it should have been “Italian cultural norm”. It was the “European” bit I was objecting to. “Europe” is not a single country, it does not have a single culture or single cultural norms. It is a collection of very diverse countries sharing a landmass.
I took that statement to mean that European attitudes towards sex and flirtation tends to be more open than in America. I think that is actually also what Alex referred to when he spoke of being Italian.
I live in “Europe” (which culturally is the same as saying I live in the Northern Hemisphere, we are NOT one country), England to be exact. My boss is Italian. He’s also male. He has never once asked me to sit on his lap or made crotch jokes at me. If he did, regardless of the fact we are “European” I’d tell him to watch his mouth or I’d report him to HR. “Europeans” don’t go around being sexist and vulgar at each other.
Wendy, I’m afraid I am not making myself clear. I’m sorry.
When I read that, what came to my mind is that, at least in continental Europe, there is a freer attitude toward sex and flirtation. For instance, it has been well-known that some leaders of continental European countries have mistresses throughout their tenure. As you can see with Clinton, that type of thing would not fly in the US. Not saying that is good or bad…. it is just my observation, and one that has been noted by a lot of other people.
That said, sexual exploitation is equally common to all, I think. That is not the aspect that I was thinking of when she made that statement.
And you’re still doing it! OK, so it flew in France and Italy, but in Britain there is a massive backlash against sleazy politicians. And you do you seriously think the Irish public would put up with it? As I said (about 3 times now!) Europe is not a country and does not have a common culture.
Wendy, similar to your point that Europe does not have a common culture, the same could be said about the U.S. Some of our states are so entrenched in their own set of standards that they challenge the very definition of an American. If you took the stereotypical Californian, Texan and New Yorker, I guarantee you’ll have 3 distinctly different impressions of Americans.
So you understand why I object to the countries of Europe being lumped into one basket then.
Wendy said “So you understand why I object to the countries of Europe being lumped into one basket then.”
I do understand why you might provide your insight as to why you don’t think this is a generalization people shouldn’t make. You have made a good point, and I will consider it in the future phrasing of things.
However, there is an angry tone to your posts that I can’t say I understand. There was no insult intended, either in the original posts or subsequent ones.
Well Sheila, it would appear that you know better than me what tone I was conveying there. I have just read back through the comments and don’t see how mine are any “angrier” than yours. I do get fed up with the common misconception that everyone in this community is American and I don’t like my country or continent being seen as some provincial backwater, but if you think that’s angry, I think that perhaps you’ve been living a sheltered life.
It “read angry” to me (and, I think others too… hence all the fluttering about trying to let you know it wasn’t meant to be insulting!).
Perhaps it is in the different use of the language between the English and Americans. For instance, when I hear “fed up”, I read that as more forceful and “angrier” than “frustrated”.
I am sorry for any miscommunication on my end.
OK, I see where you’re coming from, my apologies. Fed up is pretty mild to us, so maybe reread the posts, but substitute the words that sound angry and that’s probably what I was going for. I was making a point, but I wasn’t doing it angrily or aggressively.
No problem at all! I am just glad we talked it out, rather than leaving in a huff!
Ellen Luckett Baker says
Abby, Thanks for addressing this topic. Quilting is a male-dominated industry. Although we predominantly see female designers and shop owners, men own most of the fabric manufacturers. It’s important for us as fabric consumers to hold these businesses accountable for their behavior and demand that they treat women in a professional manner. As women, we have this right. And as consumers, we have this power.
As a blogger, designer, and sewing book author, I have been fortunate to meet many amazing and talented women who drive quilting trends, create innovative techniques, and pioneer new business models in the industry. These women, including those smart and talented designers shown above, should be treated with respect. Although I like Aurifil thread, I definitely don’t agree with their online marketing practices. So I’ve decided to use other brands of thread, a simple but meaningful personal choice.
Thank you for your perspective, Ellen. The designers who have dealt with Alex in person all seem to agree that he’s a very respectful person. I did not get that impression from his tweets or the #aurigirl campaign or #heygirl meme. For me, these images and words felt derogatory toward women and I want to bring that forward for us as a community to examine and think about.
Ellen Luckett Baker says
Oh, let me be clear. I think this behavior is sexist and inappropriate. And I don’t personally know him, so I’m not sure if you can separate the behavior from his character.
To be perfectly honest, there are many aspects of the quilting industry that are still way behind the times. This is perhaps indicative of a larger issue.
Sue Sillano says
“A simple but meaningful personal choice” thank you Ellen for a most important comment. I will choose among the many other options I have for thread. Simple!!
Abby, thank you for using your amazing online voice to discuss this. I agree that what I read above from this person was ‘ick’.
Very inappropriate and smug. You are a champion. I think you are the best. I’m avoiding this company completely.
The bad jokes and tweets alone, while they aren’t funny, don’t personally offend me.
It’s the lap sitting in professional situations that offend me. No one should feel like they need to sit on his lap to get exposure. And no one should be viewing that photo and wondering if flirting with Alex is the way to get a thread collection rather than hard work.
Some of the women clearly enjoy his attention, but I suspect they would enjoy it even if it weren’t so suggestive. When we fight so hard to be paid for our work, to be recognized as having a job and not just a hobby, this distracts from our goal. And THAT is what offends me.
It’s not the fact that girls are sitting on his lap, it’s the implication that they must do so.
I had to stop following him. I was super creeped out by the girls on laps photos. Thank you for bringing this up in the larger context and making me realize it wasn’t just me that felt it was all so very inappropriate.
Another THANK YOU for contextualizing all of this, Abby! Kelly + I had tweeted about this in the past, and I blocked his account so I wouldn’t see any of the retweets, which just gross me out. I hope that this post helps others understand why the behavior isn’t “being yourself”, but is actually offensive. (There’s lots of ways to be yourself in a way that doesn’t denigrate an entire gender…or your customers, partners, and fans.)
Diane Gilleland says
First, I want to compliment you on the thoughtful, well-documented way you presented this post. I know you didn’t take the decision to share this publicly lightly. I haven’t kept up on Aurifil’s social media voice, but seeing all these (really gross) examples, it’s a no-brainer for me to choose other brands of thread.
WOW! I had no idea. I cannot believe this is going on! I definitely will NOT be buying this thread. I don’t care how amazing it is. This guy is a class A jerk. And wow, I wouldn’t want any business dealing with the company either.
Sheila Williams says
Thank goodness! Well done, for so long I have cringed at this behavious, good on you for speaking out.
wow. I’ve never used Aurifil products (though I’m familiar with the brand), and I definitely won’t after reading this. It’s just gross on multiple levels. Thanks for putting it out there!
I have never understood men who think that this type of juvenile “humor” is in any way funny, attractive or appropriate. As for the lap photos… downright creepy.
I am sure that many of the woman who have sat on his lap, felt uncomfortable and uneasy doing so. The thing is, as woman, we have a tendency to ignore that voice in our heads that says, “I don’t like this… I don’t want to do this…” because we don’t want to be rude, or mis-judge someone. And when that someone is in a power position, and laughing and joking around with us, it makes it even harder.
Thanks for speaking up about this. It just might give someone the courage to say, “No” to this type of request. To say “Not funny” when presented with such sexist joking. And to say, “No thanks, I’ll pass on this product” when it comes to how they spend their money.
Sarah Fielke says
I am one of the above mentioned Aurigirls and I just wanted to throw in my two cents. I have worked with Alex for several years and now have a thread collection with Aurifil. In all the time I have dealt with Alex, both in emails and in person, he has never ever said or done anything even vaguely inappropriate and has always been completely professional and lovely to deal with. The pictures at Market, as with his tweets, were marketing stunts and he is not like that in person AT ALL. If anything I think he was more embarrassed to have me sit in his lap than the other way around! I think a personal, vindictive post like this is uncalled for despite wether you think his social media posts are funny, or offensive. I’m proud to be an Aurifil designer and I know the other designers are too.
Thank you for your perspective, Sarah. I have never met or dealt with Alex personally, beyond the three tweets we exchanged today. As I said to Sara Lawson below, it is good to hear that he is in fact supportive and totally appropriate to work with. Having just come upon the #aurigirl images today, I was personally put off by them and felt very uncomfortable with them, as I did with Alex’s jokes on Twitter which I feel are derogatory toward women. I would love to see some of his polite, supportive behavior reflected better online so that people like me who first encounter him, and Aurifil, there get an impressions that is more accurate to what you’re describing.
Eirlys Penn says
But this post wasn’t vindictive, Sarah… In Abby’s defence, it simply questions a marketing strategy which is bound to misalign with a large number of potential customers. Entirely appropriate that she raised the issue.
Sarah Fielke says
I’m afraid I don’t agree. I think that condemning someone so roundly in a blog post using his name in the title, completely in public, by name, off the strength of a three tweet reponse without contacting anyone at the company first is wrong.
I appreciate this feedback, Sarah.
Eirlys Penn says
I don’t agree that Abbey ‘condemned’ Alex, Sarah. She certainly drew attention to his online behaviour and questioned whether it was appropriate – but that’s something else. The behaviour would appear to condemn itself.
Leah Kabaker says
Sarah, I couldn’t agree more. I hate the witch hunts after the CEO of Mozilla Firefox simply because in his private life he wasn’t in favor of gay marriage. There was NO discrimination against gays in the company. If I only bought products from people I consider good and moral I wouldn’t be buying anything.
J. Bruce Wilcox says
Leah- I’m GAY- and I’m a MALE. So I guess (in your opinion) that makes me a Witch Hunter- doesn’t it? So do you believe that Prop 8- something the MF CEO funded personally- and something that has been judged as UNCONSTITUTIONAL- should have been left alone- as just another endless piece of discrimination against ME? Because after putting up with all the rabid discrimination I’ve experienced (from heterosexists) for 52 of my 60 years- I’m certainly fed up with it!
Good and moral? So as a dead serious working fiber artist who ALSO happens to be GAY- I guess I’m just not GOOD or MORAL- right? Am I following you logic correctly- here?
melle e says
While I respect your opinion, I will add this. there are growing numbers of us who are, in fact holding public behaviors, including social media attitudes and actions, and spoken words against companies and deciding NOT to have anything to do with them because of it.
if they don’t want their behavior, ideas, and beliefs to be used when a consumer determines whether or not to use a company, they should shut it and not make it public.
For my family’s personal part, there are MANY fine companies whose products and convenience we sorely miss.
I will not use Aurifil now because of the PUBLIC actions of this man. I also won’t darken the door of a Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, Olive Garden, Applebees, Red Lobster, Papa Johns. We donated all our Eden foods products to a homeless shelter. I need a new fridge and am ljjited because we will not have Frigidaire or Electrolux appliances in our home because of corporate practices.
We will not support offensive, controlling, or abusive behavior of businesses in public. If they want to be creepy, dirty.old men in private, more power to them. But if you involve brie name.of your company, we will and SHOULD hold that company accountable. We will not own Sony products because of business practices.
We live in the age of an educated consumer. And corporations are willy nilly allowing personal attitudes and actions of employees to set the tone for their whole colony via social media…. They get to pay the consequence of those very public misdeeds and offences.
And the numbers of us not only willing but seeking out corporate behaviors which lead us to avoid companies, well…. We’re growing. Corporate America needs to be aware. We will think with our dollars and out feet…. and we will shop where women are not treated as objects for men’s personal pleasure. We will not shop where the freedoms to our health and our body, irregsrdless of whether anyone agrees with someone else’s choices, are trumped by the beliefs of a ….piece of paper. We will not shop where the corporations are more concerned with their bottom line and absolutely, adamantly WILLING to harm employees to prove an outdated point. We will not shop with companies who support bleeping the America public blind to what’s in their foods. We will not shop with American companies who move their corporate office overseas to avoid paying taxes. Or who make billions in profits while taking government subsidies nd having the majority of their workforce living in poverty and non public assistance.
Corporations are responsible to their community. Rather they like it or not.
And we DO care.
And if he’s behaving this way in public, and in fact he’s argued that it’s simply *who he is* well… it’s obviously something he’s proud of.
And maybe, just maybe, he needs a little reminder that without his target market…which like it or not, is married women predominantly, whose husbands wouldn’t particularly care to have their wives sitting on some man’s lap-my husband would thankfully have a fit! It’s inappropriate no matter how you slice it for a married woman to be away home at a conference or market and sit on someone’s lap who is not her husband.
He’s nothing but a creepy Italian playboy. If he doesn’t want his actions judged and sanctioned, then perhaps he needs to behave PUBLICLY in ways that won’t get him judged and sanctioned.
But it is how *he* is representing *himself* – he made the twitter posts etc. and created the impression that leaves all by himself. I agree that this post draws attention to something which I was unaware of, but I hardly think it is vindictive. I see it as informative and a public service actually. Any offense comes to me as an outsider, from the sexist way Alex seems to be promoting his wares. I have never used Aurifil thread and yet I have heard of it as a very good thread. The way a company conducts itself (and Alex is a representative) does matter to me, so the result of reading the flippant and sexist remarks, is a thread I will not be using. No one else is to blame for that. While I thank Abby for bringing it to my attention, the reason I have been put off the product is the words that were released from Alex’s mind-set and no one else’s. If the behaviour is impeccable then there is nothing to report is there?
Michelle G. says
Thank you! Those are my thoughts exactly after reading this post. I did see his “Embelishment” picture a few days ago in my Facebook feed and thought it was odd and missed the mark it was aiming at. As always I thought Abby wrote a balanced post and seem to try hard to see past Alex personal comments by digging deeper.
Kit Lang says
Thank you for saying so well what I wanted to. I wouldn’t have said it any differently.
I agree with the post and find his tweets/comments/pics a bit creepy. Like in the way we have ‘that’ uncle.
Here is the thing though. I feel like this is his personal twitter. There are no links to his company website and I’m not sure that these comments would be appropriate if his handle were something like @alexaurifil we would have to take a closer look at the marketing campaign of this company. But as it is his personal name he is allowed to say what he wants when he wants. This doesn’t excuse his words/actions/tweets/whatever but it shouldn’t be held against a company that employs many many other people and affects the lives of many more people as well.
Along the same lines, why is it okay for us to use meme’s that include ‘Ryan Gosling’ but not this guy? What is the difference? Are we okay sexualizing Ryan Gosling because he is a celebrity and thats okay? Or does the fact that Alex Veronelli is involved in the craft world somehow hold him to a different standard (and who is writing that standard)? Is it the fact that HE as a MAN and made these himself and not a female crafter making them? I think the fact we are okay with one guy in a meme with his shirt off talking about something but not this other man talking about something else somehow muddles the situation. As my Nana used to say, “What is for one must be for all.”
This is a great post Abby!
I so appreciate having a male voice in the comments, Rohn. You’ve made question why I felt okay with the Ryan Gosling meme, but not okay here.
It is important to point out that women made the captions on those images to enter a contest. Veronelli collected all of them on his Pinterest page, but did not make them himself. As the Quilt Inc. newsletter piece describes, there seems to be an overwhelming feeling in the quilting world that Alex Veronelli is extremely handsome and this marketing campaign was playing on that (in fact, perhaps both campaigns were).
Thank you for raising these additional thoughts.
melle e says
Personally I find the Ryan Gosling meme’s equally offensive.
However, RG isn’t someone we run into at quilt market who wants to take pictures of us sitting on his lap….
RG isn’t *accessible* to the general public.
AV is not only accessible, he’s made himself appear to be the guy next door who’ll come to dinner if asked.
Stacey (FreshStitches) says
To me, the Ryan Gosling ones are always sweet. It’s a headshot, and he’s talking about cuddling, giving a backrub or holding your yarn while you wind it. Granted, I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve never seen one that’s sexually explicit or even suggestive.
These photos are a little different. In the 3 examples Abby showed, two are rather explicit (geesh, could you fit MORE crotch into a photo?). If they were all like the last one, then they’d be like the Ryan Gosling ones and quite inoffensive.
Also, to my knowledge, Ryan Gosling doesn’t pose for any of those photos. Folks just use photos of him that are already out there and put words on them. On the other hand… let me see if I have this right, this guy asked someone to take a photo directly at his crotch… and then asked for captions? And another of him (suggesting that he is) naked under a quilt. That’s the ick factor.
I’d never heard of this guy, but there are men in the yarn industry who are the same way. My thinking is that they do it because there are a lot of women who like it. They *love* the attention of being flirted with (seriously, I’ve spoken to a number of middle aged women who go gaga over this sort of behavior) and like looking at an attractive (older) man.
The question that Abby raises is whether this is the image you want to put out on social media, which I think is a fair point. I certainly wouldn’t, but I’m not an Italian guy running a thread company. He’s made his choice, and folks will either flock to his thread or run away depending on their feelings. That’s his gamble.
Having worked with Alex on many occasions (& will continue to do so) I can quite honestly say that Alex Veronelli the internet persona and Alex Veronelli the man behind Aurifil thread are two incredibly different people. Whilst I am not in any way condoning sexist behaviour I think his online persona is in a large way borne of playing up to a stereotype of the Italian Man. In reality he is gentlemanly, professional and incredibly knowledgable of his company’s products.
In the very many times that I have met with him I have never felt uncomfortable or that he was being inappropriate.
That’s excellent to hear. I’m not sure why hew would want to then tweet jokes that disparaging toward women or would agree to participate in an online campaign in which female designers sit on his lap. These two ideas seem at odds to me.
Andrea @ MouseInMyPocket.com says
I actually love that Alex Veronelli feels comfortable being himself with everyone, even if it does make some people uncomfortable. I’d rather deal with a real person who has flaws than someone who is trying to be something that they are not. Of course, I’m also used to the types of jokes that Veronelli tells, and have heard most of them before he posted them. Of course, I’m all for buying a product that you love from a company that makes you happy, so if Alex Veronelli’s online presence affects your view of the company that much, just don’t buy their product. That’s the quickest way to make a change.
For me it’s not really about buying or not buying Aurifil thread. I’m interested in holding up the way that Aurifil as a company, and Alex as one of its leaders, is portraying women online and examining and talking about that.
As an independent quilt shop owner who is heavily invested in the thread (for its quality), a boycott would hurt me personally much quicker than it would filter to the top. Raising a discourse and letting the company know our opinions on their marketing choices would be more effective, in my opinion. It’s part self-preservation, but it seems like the wrong people end up hurt the most by boycotts. (But I’m with you Abby, I find this extremely distasteful.)
I am glad you brought this up. I am so tired of the word boycott. I’m gonna boycott HobbyLobby, I’m gonna boycott Walmart, that’s all fine and good, but the people you really hurt are those who work for all the companies you might boycott if their sales go down and people start getting fired. Every business has a consumer services dept that you can let know your complaints by email, letter, phone call , etc. I only stop purchasing a product if it sucks and Aurifil doesn’t. From what I have discovered from all the posts I have read here is that some of you have derived an opinion of Alex because of his silly remarks and some bad marketing ploys (I seem to remember some Fiat commercials that brought sex on board calling the cars Sexy Italians) but those of you that have ACTUALLY met and worked with him say he’s professional, so what gives, who should I believe?
I think we need to get some perspective.
Alex’s comments are intended as humour, as light relief and that’s certainly the vein in which I take them.
They are never personal, they are light-hearted banter.
I truly think there are bigger issues in he world that Alex being ‘fresh’.
Crack a smile. 😀
Leah Kabaker says
Amen, problem with too many women today is the thin skin. Years ago at work the salesmen would rile up the women with this kind of talk. Me, I’d just hand it right back in a bawdy manner. Interesting, they all became serious and good friends of mine – sharing personal tidbits of their lives. The other women kept steaming and stewing in the corner and then turned on me. Grow a pair ladies.
Eirlys Penn says
Grow a pair of what, exactly…?! But seriously, I don’t think the answer here is to out-male bad male behaviour: this isn’t a pissing contest. But each to their own.
The fundamental question remains: if you’re selling to a predominantly female market, what is to be gained by offending a huge chunk of that core market? It might keep the marketing department amused but it doesn’t appear to be working for a lot of sewing females, me included.
jess @ fushmush says
And you’re buying into a method which has been used to silence minorities for years
“C’mon! You’re over reacting! It’s just a bit of harmless fun! There must be something wrong with you if you don’t find it funny.”
I’m seeing this type of comment frequently in response to the Aurifil posts. Now imagine if someone said this to you when you were being asked to sit in a grown man’s lap. Or when someone was pressuring you into having sex with them.
Why is it that our reaction is deemed inappropriate instead of the initial behaviour?
Having worked in the fashion industry, I often traveled to Italy to visit the textile mills. Yes, Italian men tend to be very charming, a bit flirtatious, but also quite professional. I don’t think any of them would have hugged someone who was uncomfortable with it. And the double kiss on the cheek greeting was always a warm way to start a meeting. It seems to me that it’s the choice of these young female designers to go along with the lap photos. Couldn’t they have suggested a standing up picture instead if they didn’t really want to sit on Alex’s lap? It’d be interesting to know if any of them thought that it wasn’t appropriate after the fact.
That I don’t know. As of right now, the designers who have sat on Alex’s lap for photos all seem to have had a very positive experience in doing so. All have said they were asked permission in advance, and in private, by a third party, and agreed to it. Even so, when I happened upon the images today and read the captions under them written by Alex I felt very uncomfortable. Whether the campaign was instigated by him or by someone else in the company, to me it was not an appropriate choice.
Sara @ Sewsweetness says
Hey Abby! I just wanted to leave a comment, and this is just completely related to my personal experience with Alex. I met him 3 years ago at Quilt Market at a blogger’s after party, and I see him 2-3 times every year. He has also asked me to do talks with him during an all-day engagement at a quilt shop in the Chicago area, pretty much to help me promote my bag patterns and make sure I got in front of the head of marketing from Brewer Distributing, which helped me a lot. I did take that photo sitting on his lap, but I was asked beforehand and in private if it would be okay with me (and not by him). I know that he posts risque sayings on his personal Facebook and Twitter, but in person he is pretty much a 180 of what he says on-line, and I can definitely say this after having spent almost 10 straight hours with him, lol. He’s helpful, a bit on the quiet and reserved side, and respectful of customers of his product. I’m a super quiet and shy person, and he’s never made me feel weird or uncomfortable. I sent him an e-mail yesterday asking his opinion on a big project that I’m working on, and he responded a few hours later with his opinion, and as I know he’s a busy person, I appreciated that I could count on his reply and that he would give me his advice. His treatment of me has pretty much been like that from the beginning, when I had like 500 blog followers, and I’m not sure that I could find another head-of-company that would be generous of their time in answering my question.
Anyway, I don’t mean this to be inflammatory or anything like that, I just wanted to mention about my personal experience with him. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your positive experiences with Alex, Sara. I respect and trust your perspective. I have never met Alex Veronelli and my only personal contact with him was an exchange of three tweets today. When I began to look back through his Twitter and Instagram feed I became personally uncomfortable with the ways in which I felt he was portraying and interacting with women. Having no relationship with him other than what he has publicly put out on social media, these were the feelings and impressions that I had. Given that he is the helpful and supportive person I would love to see that reflected in his online activity.
In the female-dominated world of sewing, quilting and craft, acceptance and worthiness are based on shared hobbies and skills, not how good you look in lingerie. Men are very welcome in this world when they adhere to this value system -think Benjamin Levisay and Drew Emborsky. For many, myself included, this world is reassuring because it reflects our values. Like Abby and the many other women who are now voicing their opinions, I am disturbed by Veronelli’s words and actions.
I am very interested in the comments defending Veronelli. I understand the motivation behind the comments of people who know him and are distinguishing between his private behaviour and his public persona. I personally know men who are ‘really lovely when you get to know them’, but don’t feel the need to be equally pleasant to people they don’t know. In a similar situation, I would defend these men. However, I do not understand the comments that defend his behaviour, that refer to him as simply being ‘fresh’. People are upset because he has come into a space with set rules of behaviour and is disrespecting the values and people in this world. Yes, he is doing it on his private social media, not the company’s social media. But he is using himself as part of the company’s brand, so I do not agree with the argument that he is free to do what he wants without judgement as long as he doesn’t specifically refer to the company.
Furthermore, is Abby being ‘vindictive and personal’ in this post? Well, it depends on how we evaluate Veronelli’s behaviour. Is he is simply misunderstood (thanks to his own actions, I might add), or is he acting inappropriately in a female-dominated space with different social norms and rules to the world at large? I think that Abby is being personal, but not vindictive. Abby is taking it personally, because Veronelli’s comments are inherently personal. When someone comes into a group and breaks the rules to get noticed, no matter what the context, they might get their desired attention, but they are going to experience resistance as well. Veronelli is being arrogant at best when he assumes that women in this space will appreciate this sort of behaviour. Do quilters want to be told that if they don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model that they are unattractive? I do not look like a Victoria’s Secret model, nor does my husband want me to look like one (well, no more than I want him to look like Channing Tatum). I applaud Abby for standing up and speaking out when she felt women in this space were being disrespected.
Also if someone behaves differently in private to their public persona then which one is real and which one should I disregard as being meaningless? Just because someone filters their behaviour in the work-place doesn’t mean they aren’t intrinsically the same person and acting from the same motives. Someone covering up sexist behaviour as it isn’t appropriate in the workplace, but yet exhibiting it outside is still someone that is concerning. When there is crossover then it gets confusing too. It also shows a degree of manipulation – they know what is right seeming behaviour and appreciate how to put a filter on their behaviour in certain environments but not others and seem to make choices. That suggests they are happy to be seen in both ways. I don’t see his working persona as a potential customer, so perhaps if he wants me to have the same respect for him, as apparently people who work with Alex do, then a bit more thought is required – unless alienation is the desired result.
J. Bruce Wilcox says
Nadia- this is your comment:
In the female-dominated world of sewing, quilting and craft, acceptance and worthiness are based on shared hobbies and skills, not how good you look in lingerie. Men are very welcome in this world when they adhere to this value system -think Benjamin Levisay and Drew Emborsky. For many, myself included, this world is reassuring because it reflects our values.
I learned to sew at the age of 8. My 61st birthday is in 2 weeks. I’m an expert sewer- clothing designer- internationally published visual merchandiser (Inspiration 1978/79) an internationally recognized FIBER ARTIST (Fiberart International 2001) and a published award winning poet (The National Library of Poetry 1993) and I’ve written a scathing book about my life interacting with women like you!
And I’m a GAY MALE.
I don’t adhere to your value system. I have virtually nothing to do with craftland or quiltland anymore- because being the only male in a group of 200+ women- to me- IS ICKY! Quite frankly- I never felt all that welcome when I tried to interact- so I’m challenging you on that piece of crap. I had to sit in the back of the room and keep my mouth shut just to be there- and I had to leave 95% of myself outside the door just to walk through it. I’m so glad you are re-assured. MY VALUES- and yours have nothing to do with each other.
And your values make me want to puke.
Bruce, I understand your anger. I have been working for gay rights (including marriage equality) for many years., and it has been a frustrating road at times (although, since I live in Virginia I am celebrating this week!: :-))/
But, if I may offer an observation: There clearly has been a sea change in the American culture with regard to heterosexuals” attitudes in the last twenty years. A friend and I were discussing the factors that we believe brought that about. The first one, in my opinion, was the courage of the Larry Kramer’s of the world — “We’re here, we’re queer, get over it!” I think this fairly strident statement was a necessary component of the process.
I think the next step was the willingness of all peoples — gay, straight, lesbian, trans, bi — to let it be known that it wasn’t okay, anymore, to talk about anyone disparagingly because of their sexual orientation. This shut down a lot of verbal gay bashing (and yes, I know that it still exists… which is why I am moving to step three).
The third step, in my opinion, has been the personalization of the concept of the “gay person”. We all know that people who have said, in the past “Well, I don’t personally know any gay people” were dead wrong. They just didn’t *know* that they were gay. As GLBTQ people have stepped up and made themselves known, heteros have been able to put a face with the concept, and realize, through interactions with those people, that they are, indeed, *people*, just like them.
I would hate to see GLBTQ folks leave this space, because it is necessary for *society* to grow. I also know that I am asking you (generically) to be ambassadors, which is a heavy load. But, in the same way that black doctors, teachers, and business owners shouldered that burden in the 1960’s, to show that they exist, that they were “good people”, so I see it in the gay folk of today.
Just my humble opinion.
I have been working with Aurifil and for Alex for over two years. He is an wonderful person to work for and I cannot imagine anyone that knows him in person can believe what is in this post. Alex is a good man that makes an excellent product.
The #aurigirl /Hey Girl campaign was organized by women and not by Aurifil. Alex had nothing to do at all with the campaign other than provide photos. I am not sure how this can be held over his head as he was not in any way responsible for the memes. He did not write one of them. With the exception of a few, they were all written by women. This campaign was open to everyone. I am the one that came up with the #aurigirl hashtag, not Alex.
The Market lap photos were in fact tongue in cheek. I was present for all except for three of the photos. Each and every person ( I say person because there was one with Rob Appell on Alex’s lap and also on Elena’s lap) was asked prior to the photo being taken, consent was given every time. No one was shy or upset while taking the photos, in fact, there was laughter and fun! There were also photos of standing or sitting with designers and other quilting personalities and even one with Angela Walters insisting Alex sit on her lap. Pity you did not care to share those as well. The implication that somehow these designers were somehow taken advantage of is not true.
Please feel free to contact Aurifil or me personally before posting about Aurifil business, I would be happy to help clear up fact from fiction.
I hear you and totally appreciate your perspective. I have never met Alex in person and stumbled upon his Twitter feed and Instagram feed just in the last few days. As a new observer to Aurifil’s social media presence, the way these images and messages portray women make me feel uncomfortable.
The images of the women with Alex are all in good taste. They are with full consent. They were also posted on my personal Instagram feed way before Alex’s since they were my original photos and you have been on my IG for quite some time. The #aurigirl posts are not against women at all, again it was orchestrated and were written by women. With all due respect, this post is sensationalism.
Abby was not the only one that was distrubed by the images and comments. While obviously not all women feel this way, it is important that you respect that not all women will respond to the aurigirl campaign in the way you intended. I agree with you that the photos themselves are not distasteful. But when they are seen in the context of Alex Veronelli’s tasteless comments, the photos take on a different connotation. Assuming Abby saw the photos on your instagram, perhaps she didn’t comment at the time because they were not seen in this context. I can understand why you want to defend your work and as I already said I do not think that the photographs themselves are distasteful. However, I do not think it is unreasonable that Abby, myself and others have responded in the way we have.
Eirlys Penn says
It’s interesting that several commenters have mentioned that these lap-sitting images were conceived by women and so therefore can’t be sexist. But it isn’t as simple as that. Reverting to gender stereotypes with a derogatory tendency towards women (or men, for that matter) is inherently sexist, whatever the gender of the person devising (and implementing) the marketing plan. I’m afraid that being female isn’t an automatic defence against peddling outworn tropes which tend to diminish women’s status: look at the tabloid press in the UK if you don’t believe me!
The very real discomfort created by these images is worth considering carefully and not rejecting out of hand. Abby has done Aurifil a huge favour here in helping to to create an understanding of its customers. The company should be paying Abby for such a golden thread of insight…
No, not sensationalism.
Sorry Kim – to the viewer they were NOT in good taste. I first saw them on your IG feed and was so disgusted by the insinuation and how, ugh, old fashioned (and not in a “good” old fashioned way either) the behaviour was, that I actually unfollowed you. It was just icky to see. I know you think it was all in good fun, and things were agreed to beforehand, but as my feminist mother says “perception is everything”. What was perceived in those lap sitting photos was a misogynistic behaviour by a man who has already shown a part of his character online with his sexist and inappropriate tweets and facebook posts.
The intention of an action and the interpretation of action are not intrinsically linked. I’m glad to hear that so many women have a positive relationship with Alex. But it’s important for you to realize that the majority of people are only exposed to snapshots in time. Unfortunately for Alex (and those who know him) those snapshots are not always as favorably as you would like. Based on the defensiveness of your response I’m guessing you were unaware of the negative impression that these posts are generating. That’s ok! Now that you know some of this content is alienating, and if the impression people have of Alex is valuable to Aurfil then there’s clearly an opportunity to adjust the content moving forward.
These photos were NOT in good taste. I recall when they started showing up in my IG feed during Market and was very bothered by them. I even chatted about it with some friends who shared they felt the same as me. I have not purchased Aurifil since.
You and others in this comment thread say it’s ok because “you haven’t met him in person” and “he’s not like that IRL”. I’m a regular quilter, not a fancy author, designer or anything like that. My only exposure to the company is on social media or my local shop, so meeting someone in person won’t happen for me. From what I see on IG and other areas, Alex is a sexist and degrading to women. Why do you think it’s ok to make sexist jokes because they are jokes? Does that mean it’s ok to make racists jokes because they are jokes? If it’s ok to make sexists jokes to women, is it ok to make a holocaust joke to a Jew? I don’t think so. I think anyone regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation or religion deserve to be treated respectfully. Granted, as a private business you can do whatever you want, but you can’t claim it’s ok, because based on this comment thread it is so obviously not ok!
Anyway, my money is going elsewhere and based on your response here as an employee of Aurifil, I’ll be complaining to my shop about them carrying it.
THANK YOU ABBY for saying so eloquently what so many of us were feeling.
It’s unbelievable to me that you think this is ok because people consented. It’s degrading to women.
Ali W says
Holy smokes, Kim! Up until reading your comments I had been thinking that although I find the images and behaviour distasteful, I would give benefit of the doubt and accept that it was all a misguided mistake and continue to buy Aurifil thread. . I was further happy in this decision having learned that the images and posts have been deleted.
Your reaction just changed all that. I do not know what your role is at Aurifil but it would be good for you to read one of the many online webpages/blogposts that discuss how companies should deal with negative online comment.
I feel that you have come out not only all guns blazing and defensive, but aggressively and antagonistically too. I do not see any acceptance that many of your customers have been offended or are upset by this, and therefore not a jot of contrition or apology to those who were offended.
Your reaction alone in the last two comments you posted have made me decide to buy my thread elsewhere.
I have told my children many a time claiming that offensive/rude behavior or speech is a “joke” (or tongue-in-cheek if you will) does not make it okay. If someone’s feelings are hurt by it or they are offended, then it should not be said or done. We do have free speech, but we also have the ability to voice our discomfort w/that speech either with words, or in this case, our pocketbooks. There is too much sexism in the world at large, and I feel that the quilting world should be a safe place for women. Women re-appropriating sexist imagery/jokes is similar to African-Americans using the n-word, which has a painful history. Yet some of my friends (& ESPECIALLY my mom’s friends, who are older) do not appreciate ever being called that, or hearing it said in their presence. Since you are involved w/Aurifil & the campaigns you need to hear the women like me who buy your products who are uncomfortable with and offended by the images and tweets by Veronelli. Just because you may see it only as humorous does not mean everyone does, or should. I know it may be difficult to tamp down a natural defensive response since you were so involved and I am sympathetic to that. But please consider our feelings we’ve shared w/you in good faith.
Just reading through the comments and am struck by Kim’s command to you at the end of her initial response – “Please feel free to contact Aurifil or me personally before posting about Aurifil business, I would be happy to help clear up fact from fiction.” This attitude one might have control over what consumers put on the internet possibly contributed to this Aurifil issue.
After this debate among quilters settles perhaps Aurifil will take on board the incredibly well-constructed arguments made here and at Flossie Teacakes, change tack totally and become a role-model for fighting sexism online?
While each of these things could have been harmless fun or lighthearted humor on their own, taken together it’s a bit of a different picture. I think you picked the exact right word Abby – questionable. For me it boils down to 1) you are your brand on social media. Unless it’s a private account, you have to keep that in mind. And 2) if you wouldn’t ask a man to do it, you shouldn’t ask a women to in business either.
I don’t quilt and never heard of the guy or company before reading this post. ‘He’ has made me as a woman feel extremely uncomfortable. There is no excuse for a professional to be sitting on a colleague’s, mentor’s or business partner’s lap. It’s pathetic.
And just because these campaigns were the brain child of a female does not make them any less sexist or deserving of criticism. Anything that your company puts out in a public forum is open for criticism and instead of defending offensive behavior the best PR approach would be to apologize to the persons you have offended.
I must say that his responses on twitter seemed to be open to some reason, but not sure which of his split personalities was responding… then again it could have been the “third party” puppet master.
Abby, keep standing for something one day the rest of us will stop falling for everything.
I met Alex at one of his thread talks in June of this year and he was a pleasure to be around and totally professional. I can understand that some people may not enjoy his type of humor, which is completely acceptable. I wish you would have given more time to learn about Alex before forming a concrete opinion about him and sharing it with your readers.
I don’t think this is valid. People are entitled to their opinions and there is such thing as freedom of speech . Whether or not I agree with Abby, she still has the right to hold an opinion and share it with her readers. If this man is acting offensively (and it would seem that it’s not a view that only Abby holds having read these comments) why on earth would she feel the need to learn more about him? He is putting himself out there, he is looking for media attention in order to promote his company. He’s got to expect some backlash.
I found it very interesting that the Aurifil gentleman (I had no idea of his name) who was having woman sit in his lap is the subject of today’s post. When I saw these pictures, I didn’t think of them as cute marketing, I saw them as an egotistical man with cute young women on his lap. I was actually embarrassed for the women involved. Sorry, I never thought I’d feel prudish about such a thing but women in business have gone through so much in the past fifty + years that I’ve been around, to get past that type of image in our marketing world. I understand that some women feel it is funny but personally it is a complete turn off to many of us and bottom line, whether the brain child of women of not, it is sexist. Thank you Abby for bringing up the discussion. Yes, Mr. Veronelli may be quite a kind businessman but the Aurifil marketing department should wise up a bit. This line of advertising is really not professional.
Sarah Fielke says
Can I point out please as one of the people photographed sitting on his lap, that I am neither cute nor young. Most of the women photographed with Alex are around 27 or more- I myself am 42 and have been working in the quilting industry for over 17 years. All these women run their own businesses, are very savvy and more than capable of making their own decisions.
Do you care to explain why you, a grown professional business woman who has obviously worked hard to get to where she is chose to sit on this man’s lap for a public photo. What did you hope to achieve and what message did you think it would send?
I sincerely want to know.
I also want to know if you think it would be appropriate if this was a shoot at a law firm with a junior or senior lawyer sitting on her partner or boss’ lap. Or manufacturer with a visiting distributor (big client) or maybe McDonald’s staff can pose like this for their branch photo.
I don’t know how different your industry is from the regular world but this isn’t professional, far from.
Allison Hoffman says
I would also love to know. I cannot imagine any situation that I would think it “cute” or “all in good fun” to sit on a man’s lap unless it was my husband or if I was completely drunk.
J enny says
Oh wow, I never thought such politics would be revolved around a thread company! Sorry to say to him, I’m a Guitterman Girl!
It’s quite sad to see a man’s reputation being tarnished by people who’ve never met him, despite the assurances of people who have worked with him and had ongoing interaction with him that he’s nothing but a complete gentleman.
This, over the confirmation that Alex had nothing to do with the creation of the memes etc. there seems to be a determination to tell a man what he can and can’t post on his own feed.
Surely if his IG, FB and twitter feeds upset you so much, you could simply unfollow him. Like an adult.
This is not about “tarnishing a reputation, ” it’s a question of “does this make you uncomfortable? ” Just as you are allowed your opinion, as an adult, I am allowed to feel uncomfortable reading comments that are derogatory towards women. As so many people have now commented, Alex does not behave this way in private, so why project this “fresh” attitude publicly? If my only experience with a person is via social media and the only things I see in that arena make me uncomfortable, what else should I draw from those experiences? Yes, I have unfollowed, but I also won’t support his company because my only exposure to their spokesperson has been offensive to me.
Shirley BErg says
Obviously the man must know that this discussion exists. One would think that if he were concerned that his reputation might be tarnished, he would refrain from the behavior that started all of this in the first place. He is undoubtedly able to come to his own defense should he feel it necessary and I don’t see him chiming in. I have never heard of this man or the company and I was led here today after seeing a Pinterest pin. A pin that immediately had me saying “ewww”. Unfortunately I won’t explore Aurifil’s offerings, based solely on the behavior of their spokesperson. This campaign may have been initiated by women but he had the power to say “no” to using his image in this way. Perhaps he should have because it sends a pretty archaic message. Given the politically correct world we now live in, I’m quite surprised that this campaign ever got the go-ahead. First impressions are everything and one never gets a second chance to make that first impression.
I unfollowed a while ago. I have no time for sexist ‘jokes’ in my feed. I am always fascinated by people who aren’t offended by sexism (and racism and homophobia) but get upset and offended when it is pointed out.
As a former marketing professional for a large UK bank and quilter I’m surprised that no one has mentioned on here yet (apologies if they have and I’ve skimmed over it) that regardless of whether you were offended or not by the #aurigirl campaign or #heygirl memes, we are all on here talking about Aurifil……. The old addage of there’s no such thing as bad publicity could certainly apply here. Although I’m sure that it was never meant to offend.
I’m not on twitter and I’ve never used Aurifil thread, but I don’t take offense to this guys comments. They are just lame. As a business person, I’d never do something like that because I understand that people could be offended. I think the comments make him look really silly and take away from his credibility, and that of the company he closely represents.
The meme’s seem like a marketing attempt to give quilting and sewing a modern edge – away from the “grandma in the rocking chair persona”.
I agree with the others that the sitting in the lap pictures are what is most disturbing. But, as with everything that is put on social media, it is just a split=second worth of information, and I’m not sure I can make a judgement without actually talking to each of the designers who sat on his lap. I just think: “ick” and “unappealing”.
I find more surprising the outrage of some of the people making comments in this thread. Um… if you are working in the industry are are even a little bit in touch with your consumer you can’t be surprised. Don’t tell me these ideas weren’t pitched at a meeting in a conference room full of marketers and product managers and someone didn’t say “some people are going to be offended or made uncomfortable by this” with someone then responding “that’s OK, it will get people talking”. Which I think is why you are bothered…. you know the company made the conscience decision to take the marketing in this direction.
Abby, your perspective is a valid one and presented (on YOUR blog) in a professional way that opens up the conversation.
Interesting insight and comments.
Personally I don’t find the comments particularly offensive but they certainly aren’t entirely professional.
Some times I think we as women loose sight of the fact that sometimes a sexist joke is just that. A joke. Not derogatory or demeaning but an attempt ( sometimes failed) at humor. I often see quilters and other female bloggers joking about how hopeless their husbands are or that the man in their life is “just a man” so doesn’t understand or can’t contribute in the crafty/quilty conversation., but isn’t that sexist too.
I’m all for equal rights for women and expecting to be treated with respect but maybe we are heading into dangerous territory when we can’t make a (distasteful) joke without being called some pretty nasty names.
Although I feel this way he could easily have prevented this by simply apologising for offending in his first tweet response. A simple “sorry if I offended, it was not my intention” would surely have made the world of diffrence rather than digging a bigger hole.
Hope I haven’t offended
I’m confused, who has been called nasty names? And where?
Sam Hunter says
Hi Abby! I deeply appreciate your willingness to speak your truth in public, and enjoy the discussions that ensue (and yes, they DO challenge my thoughts too!) All of my experiences with Alex in person and Aurifil in general have been wonderful and respectful. I’d like to address the other side of this coin… how the ladies treat the guys. I’ve been in the aisles of Houston where Kaffe and his posse of male designers are hanging out, and seen women utterly loose their heads around these men…. one would think the young Beatles were back in town and panties were about to be tossed! The conversations I’ve heard about the qualities of David Butler’s derriere have been pretty interesting too. I guess I’m saying that I hope that the ladies who don’t want to see Alex’s jokes are minding their own houses and not talking about Ty Pennington like he’s prime steak… When is it a funny flirt and when is it harassment? We can only make that call for ourselves. The slope along the line from harmless to uncomfortable is one that everyone needs to define personally, and act upon accordingly (thumbs up on FB or never buy the product again). There are no absolutes, which is the beauty of this world. Anyway – thank you again!
J. Bruce Wilcox says
Thanks so much Sam- for pointing out to women- how it’s perfectly ok for them to do what they do- but not the other way around- nothing like a double-standard- is there.
And totally why I’ll never return to this blog page and why I have virtually nothing to do with quilters or crafters. To much estrogen. Not enough focus on what I believe in- leading edge fine art mastery.
I agree, to a point, which is why I said that I would not make decisions based on the original photos (I’m more inclined to see how all of this is handled).
However, I do have to point out some socio-cultural issues that are at play here.: (1) there is probably a perceived “status differential” between the two parties. In other words, Alex is probably richer and more powerful than the vast majority of these women. I believe that , when that is the case, the person with more status (male or female) needs to be mindful of this whenever they are making requests of people.
Secondly, I that we cannot underestimate the power of the culture that many women “of a certain age” (myself included) respond to. I am 54, and raised in the south. My natural inclination is not to “make a scene” in public, or with guests., and frankly, with regard to men. I have worked, over the years, to combat this natural inclination, but I have to admit, sometimes my first response is “of course!” when, inside, I’m going “WTF???”
Neither of these is an excuse, and if either of these factors are at play for any of the women in the photos, I hope they reflect upon their reactions and consider how they may retrain themselves to act more in concert with their feelings. However, I can understand how a woman may find herself in this position.
Jennifer Bosworth says
You can be 100% guaranteed Shabby Fabrics will never be offering Aurifil thread in our online store, ShabbyFabrics.com As a woman, business owner, and airline pilot, I’ve dealt with plenty of discrimination and disgusting sexist behavior. I will absolutely not tolerate promoting a company that doesn’t respect women and all of our capabilities. I am so glad you exposed the true colors of Aurifil. What speaks even louder to me is this sort of behavior is obviously condoned by upper management because they allow it to continue. Please get this message out in a bigger way so more shop owners and consumers can be enlightened as to what they are buying into and supporting when they select Aurifil products. Please free to post my comments anywhere on social media that you see fit and share it with anyway and everyone you can!
Here is my take on this whole thing- the main concern of this entire uprising, as far as I can tell, is not so much women sitting on Alex’s lap (You are all adult, professional women, you can sit on whomevers lap you like and should feel no shame towards that, however with the pictures being removed, I can’t help but feel that there was a little bit of pressure put upon them to do so?) it’s the fact that regardless of how he carries himself in person, his online persona, his “character”, completely disregards his audience. Your audience is predominately women. All kinds of women. Do you think they want to see your lame rehash of a 35 year old Dangerfield joke about your wife? Or how no one looks like a model in lingerie? No. They don’t. Why? Because it makes them feel like shit, that’s why.
Know why its funny when comics tell those jokes? Because they’re comedians. You sir, sell thread. To women. Women who probably deal with a onslaught of self doubts and insecurities on a daily basis, and they really don’t need that kind of stuff thrown at them from the guy that sells them thread.
This isn’t even an issue of sexism for me, as a previous commenter said, they’ve seen men at trades hows get bombarded like they’re the second coming of the Beatles. And that’s okay! If all parties involved are cool with it, bombard away. Throw your panties at them, no one cares.
I can guarantee though, that those fellows don’t go out of their way to make their clientele and peers feel bad about themselves. Someone saying David Butler has a rocking ass is VASTLY different than Alex reminding his 3,900+ twitter followers that they look like a hot mess in lingerie. Take accountability for your words, realize they have power and meaning, and use them for something good. Make your customers and peers feel empowered and sexy and awesome, don’t make them feel like they can’t even catch a break from the thread guy.
Michelle G. says
Bravo! I agree with this thought out and written comment. I have nothing else to add but wanted to show my agreement.
Very well said Kata!
This whole thing is amusing to me. I appreciate Abby’s post for bringing Alex’s douchiness to the forefront. I don’t use Twitter and so don’t see his tweets. But seeing them here just makes me think he’s a douchey jerk. Good for the people who know him and can insist he’s a great guy. But that’s not what he shows the rest of us who will never meet him and as the proud public face of his company, of course his messages will affect views of his company. Hopefully he’ll get his act together because it’s obviously having a negative effect.
For the women going crazy over the men at market, they are the same group who sit on Alex’s lap and think he’s great. Us regular folk (haha, can’t believe I just used the word folk) are not there.
Mimi Kirchner says
Wow- this is all super interesting. When you are the face of your brand, there is no “personal” social media. What you put out there for all to see is your brand- so no excuses. And really, how is this creepy guy interacting with the majority of customers? It is not in one-to-one business situations (where he seems to be liked and respected) but his social network. My test for sexists and not-funny jokes is, replace the gender element with a race or nationality, preferably your own- do you still think it’s funny?
Abby- thanks so much for writing about this. You’ve started a VERY interesting conversation. I’m happy to know that there are people in the crafty biz world who are willing to confront this sexist behavior. This comment thread is educational.
Mimi Kirchner says
Also, I wish there was a like button on this thread- I want to raise my fist and yell, You Said It Girl!!!” to many of the comments!
Eirlys Penn says
Ditto on the ‘like’ button. That would be cool.
Wow. I’m never spending another dime on Arifil unless Alex stops asking women ( no men????) to sit on his lap. I find that behavior disgusting.
Alexandra Walters says
I don’t understand what the designers ‘ personal experiences have to do with my perception as a customer. I don’t know him. I’m only going to know him through his online presence. For every designer who respects him, there are many more customers who are put off. Most won’t say anything, they just quit buying the product. At least this post gives them a chance to fix what isn’t working.
Julie T says
This is sad to hear. I love Aurifil thread and think it is the best on the market. But bad behavior is just that, no matter who you are. As for the Hey Girl thing. Women wrote those captions. Not particularly professional of the company to use them. Still will buy their thread.
Stacey (FreshStitches) says
By the way… I love you Abby for the posts you write! Not everyone is willing to stick their neck out there like you are! You rock!
While I’m glad that there are lots of responses here making it clear that this apparent sexism is very much an online persona and not a real-life personality trait, I’m also aware that a lot of the defenders probably have a financial/career (or, at least, free thread) interest in defending both Alex and the brand.
Like Claire said above, Aurifil do seem to market based on the idea that being talked about is more important than anything else (hence a very active Blogger engagement programme as far as I can tell) While I totally believe it’s important for representatives of brands to be human and not brand machines, this is in no way relatable to me as a paying customer. It’s entirely possible to have a sense of humour without disrespecting your core audience!
Liz Westlake says
Honestly, if it really is just an online persona, and not the way he really is in person (and I’ve never met him, so I’m not going to contradict anyone on that), to me that makes it all the more unacceptable. This means it is not someone who is being silly and not understanding boundaries or what makes good business sense – now it becomes a thought-out marketing campaign of disrespectful jokes and that lap sitting thing, which I just can’t get over.
Patricia Madsen says
I am a big fan of Aurifil thread. As a hand quilter, I have been using Aurifil for years. My darling husband recently gifted me with over $200 worth of Aurifil thread (The Perfect Box of Neutrals, The Perfect Box of Colors and several spools of white from http://www.patsloan.com). It was one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received.
But still I had no idea who Alex Veronelli was so I clicked on the Pinterest link on your blog post to see what the flap was all about and my oh my what a great web page. Not only did I enjoy the “Hey Girl” pictures (I think they are fun and funny), but I discovered Alex Jones radio. Now I have something new to listen to while I sew. And the Alex O’loughlin page, ooh la la. I had to send that to all my girlfriends. “Hey Alex, you can wind my bobbin anytime!”
I think that there is, at least in some respects, a larger issue here. All of us are now navigating the social media world and are trying to figure out where the boundaries lie between our private selves and our public selves. Once upon a time, one’s professional life was conducted in very specific venues, and one’s personal life remained personal because it was easily separated from the professional. Now we conduct much of our personal lives online, through Facebook and Instagram, and even though many of us have professional accounts, we still have people able to see and follow our personal accounts on sites such as Twitter and Instagram. If you’re not careful with your Facebook settings, sometimes those posts are public as well. Because of this, business associates and customers can often see aspects of our lives and personalities that only a few years ago might have remained more hidden. So, what happens when we discover that one of those people we do business with in some fashion isn’t as likable as we had hoped? I have found myself less likely to buy a fabric or a book or a pattern because I have seen the designer/author’s posts and interactions online and found them distasteful – and have found them so for a variety of reasons, some admittedly pettier than others.
Additionally, we now often have personalities driving marketing because we are all now so much more accessible via our online social media accounts. Instead of buying a fabric because it looks pretty, we are buying the fabric designed by the person whose blog we have read and whose Instagram we love and who sometimes responds to us on Facebook. And that personality – that person – bears almost all the responsibility for how he or she comes across online. There’s no agent, no publicity team, no experts to help out. It can be difficult to navigate all of this, and some people naturally do it well; others don’t.
My main point is that we are all still working in some rather uncharted territory with social media, and I am grateful for discussion such as this which help to highlight some of the difficulties that arise from living and working online.
This is very well said. Thank you.
I hadn’t come across this guy before, and I don’t think I’ve seen the brand in stores here (but then, I’m not a quilter), but the actions of someone who is supposed to be a specialist in PR, and the defensive replies by the company representative above would certainly put me off.
I do think that in part, it could be seen as an attempt to turn sexist advertising on its head. How many times have we seen females in similar poses, and yet when we sub in a man, it bothers us. Personally, I don’t think the way to counter the overwhelming sexualisation of females in advertising is by objectifying men instead, and so, yes, this makes me uncomfortable.
It’s highly unlikely that I will ever get to meet Veronelli. It seems that those who have met him professionally have found it a good experience, but to be honest, should the occasion ever arise, his first impression via social media as a male chauvinist. would likely lead me to spend most of the event trying to avoid him.
When I said perspective; this is what I meant.
Feeling ‘uncomfortable’ in a situation you can turn off, unfollow, walk away from is small fry.
Just because we are not in direct peril doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for a better, more just, more free experience for women right where we are.
Lower level lack of respect for women leads to downright abusive. At least, it is a possibility. I too am surprised how many women think disrespect passes for humour or should just be turned away from. I appreciate that I have more rights and equality than in many parts of the world. I am fortunate and want to stay that way. I don’t want what I take for granted to be chipped away with my consent until we find we are right back where we started.
that should read ‘abusive behaviour’ at end of first sentence. Sorry!
Eirlys Penn says
Seems to me that many of the people who are finding the aforementioned behaviour problematic would also be actively interested in all of these these issues; you could see it as a continuum of values, in fact.
As for being adults and just turning off or unfollowing, that misses the point; if we tolerate off behaviour and don’t call it into question, it changes the prevailing environment and makes it ‘OK’ for others to behave in a similar off way. We all have a responsibility to behave appropriately, and to call into question behaviour that we think might be beyond the pale. That’s what living as social animals is all about – and being properly adult, in fact.
Eirlys Penn says
Sorry, I was trying to reply to Belinda’s comments…
So . . . if I cut my finger, I shouldn’t put a bandage on it because other people have had entire limbs severed?
It is possible to care about both large issues and small ones. Talking about one does not mean you’re ignoring the other.
I cannot even imagine someone deciding that it would be a good marketing idea to ask women to sit on his lap. It’s offensive to me. I am finding this all a very interesting look into the quilting industry and the fact that so many women are so quick to defend him and aurifil is very thought provoking.
Liz Westlake says
I, personally, am no longer going to purchase Aurifil thread. The sitting in the lap thing pushed it over the line for me.
IMO, you have the right to act and post however you want on social media. You just also have to be willing to accept the consequences. And, when you are such a public face for your company, so do they.
Susan Barrett Price says
I guess no business is immune from this dilemma — to what degree must we dance with the devil to get ahead in this world? To what degree do any of us accept these “small murders” of the spirit to make a living?
I hope that the commenters who will no longer purchase Aurifil thread will also refuse to shop at Hobby Lobby. Their lawsuit and subsequent decision affect the reproductive rights of all women on a daily basis. With Alex’s feed, each one of you can easily unfollow while that is not the case with the Hobby Lobby decision.
Hobby Lobby’s founder is super religious and has a problem with providing certain types of health care for his female workers, including birth control. He went so far as to take his issue to the supreme court (along with Conestoga Wood) and actually won…which is just, well, insane and a huge step back for women’s rights. Here’s a news report on the ruling and its possible future implications: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/06/30/hobby-lobby-wins-supreme-court-case
(Sorry for off-topic; but I agree with Jaye…the issue Abby brings up will hopefully cause us crafters to take a closer look at some of the other companies we support through our purchases. Thanks Abby!)
The Hobby Lobby case is not a blanket issue against birth control. It was a case involving birth control methods that terminate life (morning after pill, IUD) vs prevent pregnancy (daily contraception via a pill). The “huh?” comment was in reference to the fact that this dialog is a divergence from the Aurifil marketing message which is being discussed here.
Well no, it was because I’ve never heard about this case. Not everything that happens in America is reported worldwide as we also have ourown news…
Apologies! Fair point.
Thanks for highlighting this issue. Not something I was aware of. I would certainly not now buy this brand of thread. This is not acceptable behaviour in the UK, I can’t speak for Italy. It is so terribly dated and out of step with most female sewers. Sure he only gets away with is as he owns the company and employees are unable to speak out in case they lose their jobs. All I can do is vote with my purse, and not buy this product. Great article thank you.
Thank you Abby for opening this discussion! I have to admit that advertisements are blocked on my computer and I don’t subscribe to any quilting magazines (yet) nor do I have a television, so I have to admit that I was completely unaware of what was going on until I read Flossie Teacakes blog where she talks about your bringing this up. I’m a fairly new quilter and had heard the hype concerning Aurifil’s thread and had considered buying some, after hearing about Alex’s behaviour and seeing that the company obviously stands behind his behaviour I will be taking my business somewhere else. His behaviour is shameful and sexist. I originally thought that maybe he wasn’t aware of the message he was portraying with these knee/lap sits, but that was just giving him too much of the benefit of the doubt. After seeing these other sexist and misogynist posts there’s no doubt about it now; I’ll be boycotting Aurifil!
I read about this post over at Flossie Teacakes blog and wanted to say that I appreciate your courage to speak out about the sickening aura that Aurifil has created with those demeaning ads. And I’m so sorry that such great quilters have gotten caught in a web where they might not even realize they were compromised. I’m a new quilter, but now…I”m. so. disappointed. I. don’t. even. want. to. think. about the quilt I was planning to start in the fall. Again, thank you.
Sherry V says
I was not aware of this situation….but my immediate thought is this: if he would not ask his employees to sit on his lap why would he ask anyone to do so?
I have not use Aurifil and do not think that I will in the future.
As for some of the comments linking this situation with Hobby Lobby need to see that the issues are completely different. Many corporations choose their insurance coverage based on cost…..after all, the bottom line is what they are looking at. And asking that two medications be disallowed is not the same as being inappropriate when interacting with women in all actions.
Italian or not……he is being disrespectful…….and I do not see the humor.
Totally agree about that first part, and I doubt he would ask his employees to sit on his lap or that he would be okay with his PR person asking them as this case appears to be.
This whole issue would not necessarily make me stop using Aurifil, but then, I don’t really use it to start with. It’s too expensive. Perhaps they should use those big bucks they get from their customers to hire a better PR person…
As for Hobby Lobby, it was not about cost. It’s about religion. And no, I will not shop there.
I found your post on this issue after reading Florence’s (flossieteacakes) response to this issue. I had only been aware of the Quilt Market lap sitting photos & had become increasingly uncomfortable seeing them on Instagram. The other social media initiatives that take this theme even further really demonstrate that this is a campaign from this company, seemingly a considered & planned one. It is not wowserish for women to point out that this strikes the wrong note. Humour is not an excuse for behaviour that is a inappropriate. Aurifil really has it wrong on this & it’s terrific that you’ve raised the issue in a reasonable & thoughtful way.
Jowyn Jenson says
Thankfully not a European cultural norm! It’s such a shame that Aurifil think this marketing ‘theme’ is a good idea. Yes, it’s misogynist and plain unfunny. This ‘Italian bad boy’ thing is so misguided. Is this a stereotype we really want to push?
Lora Douglas says
Hi Abby, Thanks for bring this to light. I happen to love Aurifil thread above all other thread, it is all I use. So when I read your post I was very uncomfortable. I generally don’t support companies that behave in this manner. This is a reflection on the company, and not a good one. Do we even know if Alex is doing these posts? You know, busy business owners have marketing people doing tweets, posts, etc. There just seems to be a disconnect between what the bloggers who have worked with Alex are saying and the general sentiment of the online sewing community. I would like to see some type of statement from Aurifil Threads, the company.
Alex is writing the tweets himself. He has been clear about that. Kim Niedzwiecki commented above. She does PR for Aurifil in the United States and as she stated in her comment, she came up with the #aurigirl campaign and took the pictures at Market of designers sitting in Alex’s lap.
Wow, well this has opened a big discussion about something that has niggled away in the back of my mind for a while. I’m now going to comment about ALex the persona rather than Alex the real man as I have had no direct interaction with him (more on that in a minute). I know my husband-to-be thinks the whole lap-sitting thing is creepy, and that’s from a man perspective. I actually don’t think Aurifil is any more superior to many other threads but it is possibly overpriced, and that’s why I don’t buy it regularly. I don’t follow his twitter because “he” doesn’t share the same life values as I do. He was at the Fat Quarterly Retreat last year and this online persona actually made me too intimidated to go anywhere near his stall at the market because I thought he was going to be a disgusting letch and I don’t have the confidence to work with that. I really wish I had because then I may have been able to say whether the designers speaking up here in support of Alex-the-person are right, but I just know it put me off handing over my money, and that’s not a smart marketing move. Still, you market to the majority and if that’s what most women want, then maybe we’re in the minority..?!
Telling someone they need to get a sense of humor because “it’s just a joke” is a classic coward’s method of admitting they don’t care enough to learn how to speak respectfully around other human beings. He’s placed himself in a position where’s he’s “right”, you’re “wrong”, and no one can convince him otherwise. He probably thinks you just can’t handle how edgy he is. I’m sure he’s got a wonderful collection of jokes about the handicapped, people of color and other minorities he would just love to share . . . . it’s nasty in and of itself, but it is especially nasty when this is how a businessman thinks he should deal with a potential customer.
In short, he’s gross trash. And the people defending him because he never acted this way to them, personally, are gross trash, too. That’s how he gets away with stuff like this, he knows exactly when he has to hold it back and appear superficially charming.
I don’t think any human being is trash.
I do, if they behave like trash. *shrugs* Maybe it makes me trash to say that, but I don’t have time for people who act like this any more. I used to try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they always managed to disappoint me again.
Eirlys Penn says
Hi Lew. Unfortunately, name-calling isn’t going to help. It’s way more constructive to criticise the thing being done (and suggest how it might be made better) rather than damning the person doing it. If you condemn the person with words like ‘trash’, they are almost bound to become defensive and ignore what you’re saying. And then everyone remains polarised, and nothing changes. Yes, the online persona is trashy, the tweets are trashy, the marketing campaign seems pretty trashy to me, but the people involved are OK. Probably just a little misguided, that’s all. Let’s give them a chance to address the PR issues being raised here and maybe raise their game a little.
I’m sorry I can’t read all of the comments here so I apologize if I’m repeating opinion.
Unprofessional and unimaginative is all that comes to mind regarding Mr Veroneli. His behaviour is certainly not a “European” way things are done but it may be acceptable behaviour in Italy. In a country where Silvio Berlusconi was repeatedly elected Prime Minister it is not at all surprising that this would be an acceptable norm.
Women don’t have to declare themselves feminists to understand his actions on the simplest level are backwards, not fun, and in no way puts us on a respectful, equal footing with men. As for those tweets – shocking! Well done Abby for questioning his approach.
Although men quilt, it’s been a largely women’s world, bringing women together over quilt frames for generations. No rude Italian badboys needed or wanted…no “god’s gift to women” attitude needed or wanted. And I am sure there are other companies who would be willing to meet the needs if women choose to boycott this not-charming and not attractive sexist and his products.
Thanks for the post. I unfollowed Kim’s IG feed a while ago when the lap pictures started appearing.
Cheryl Arkison says
Kudos, Abby, for highlighting this. Despite the criticism you received, this needed to be said. And kudos to those putting their names to this as well. In light of the women against feminism rants I’ve been seeing lately this was also highly timely. Sexism is nasty stuff and if we don’t rally against seemingly harmless acts, the big stuff never gets tackled. I’ve got daughters and this is the last thing I want them to have to endure. So while my mother’s generation and those before fought hard for other seemingly harmless transgressions I will continue to fight and support those who fight now. It may be JUST quilting, but it is an act of purchasing as much as creativity and consumption, and our decisions should be supported by values as well.
Melissa Q. says
Abby, Thanks for discussing this. The campaign was in poor taste, no doubt. It sounds like he is a nice guy and I hope that is now reflected in his feeds. Way to speak up!
Thank you for starting this conversation. It has been interesting reading both sides. I’m glad you opened up the conversation, which has given the company the opportunity to see how its campaign is affecting what was “the silent” customer base. You perhaps have made a difference in the world because you were brave enough and eloquent enough to raise this issue in what I feel was a most appropriate and necessary way.
I came to this site after reading Florences thoughts. I will continue to use Aurifil because it is a great product and by not buying it I’d likly punish independent shop owners who sell Aurifil (a lot of them women). Thank you florence for pointing that out.
Those pictures are stupid and it is important that we have let aurifil known what we think of them. (the pictures I mean) I am really glad this discussion has started.
Did Mr. Veronelli respond to this whole story yet? I’d really like to hear his/their side.
Thank god. As a women who owns a small business, stocks Aurifil AND finds their marketing distasteful, the talk of boycotting the brand makes me feel sick. It’s hard enough to stay in business as is. Please, flood them with feedback, but don’t give up on the thread if you love it.
lyn lewis says
What a saddo he must be, needing to belittle women in these sexist and unkindly silly ways.
Its ‘back of the bike sheds’ teenage boy humour and just makes him look a fool lol
He must think hes a real gift to women, though only the slim and attractive ones obviously!
Frankly he looks and sounds to be a right prat lol
Shame on Aurofil for allowing him to denigrate the product and the large majority of its buying public.
I wont buy it any more ~
I find it interesting that a number of commenters have said that you were wrong to raise this as an issue without first officially contacting Aurifil. While I like how supportive the online quilting and crafting communities are, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t taking “nice” too far. Being nice shouldn’t mean we have to keep our mouths shut about a sexist advertising campaign. Being nice shouldn’t mean we can’t write a truthful pattern or book review (especially if we paid for it ourselves). I’m not advocating we turn this community into mommy wars or something none of us want to be a part of, but I for one think we should be allowed to speak honestly about our experience with products (and in this case, Alex Veronelli is a product in Aurifil’s marketing campaign).
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement! It really sucks as a beginner to shell out money for a product people have been raving about, only to find out that they glossed over important flaws in order to stay positive.
I find it ridiculous that people were so offended by this post because of how mean they perceived it to be. It was incredibly professional, honest, and well-written.
Thank you for posting this. I am a typical working stiff casual sewist who reads blogs from time to time, not your target audience, but coming across your article confronting this issue has been incredibly heartening; I am glad to see a well thought out conversation about gender issues in the sewing community, things that frequently frustrated me but until now have never been something that I have seen discussed.
Good on you! He seems like a dickhead.
I saw the Instagram photos and thought it was creepy. I didn’t read the tweets until today. Definitely didn’t sit well with me. Many of the professional men I’ve dealt with in the sewing world (not my Moda rep, though!!) are sexist, chauvinistic, and sometimes downright insulting in that “well, little lady!” kind of way , but I was surprised that Aurifil was making such a public show of this. The thread is awfully nice, though…
Sarah @ Berry Barn Designs says
I don’t follow their feed because of the posts, though I guess less because I feel uncomfortable about the sexuality and more because it feels dumb and unintelligent/pointless as marketing. I do like the product, but generally I wouldn’t follow any company’s marketing that was so out of step with what the product really does. Regardless, thank you, Abby, for being willing to voice such a valuable concern on behalf of others. You continue to be an honest and uncompromising voice in this field, and it is much appreciated and exceptionally valuable.
Ms Midge says
I have read and re-read this post and the comments a couple of times since having it brought to my attention this morning. I have never visited your blog before, as I’m sure quite a few other commentators here had not either. I am of the opinion that this post screams Defamation. And it really saddens me. What if someone didn’t like the way I ran my social media? The thought that they would then go and write a whole post about me and make me out to be someone who I may or may not be is just terrible. Regardless of how you or anyone else feels about Alex and the way he chooses to run his social media platforms, it is NEVER ok to blatantly shame and target someone in such a public manner. What you perhaps should have done, was taken your concerns to Aurifil head office and worked on it from there. I am pretty sure they would have been open to feedback from their customers about their marketing etc – WITHOUT inciting such a backlash again one person. I do not know Alex personally, I only know him through following him on social media. Yes, some of the posts he puts up are questionable at times – but that’s HIS choice. It’s also MY choice not to like it or comment on it. I really feel like I have read a whole lot of “bullying” on here, and I’m afraid it does not make me want to come back again…….
Lol, my husband is an attorney and you clearly don’t understand what defamation is. What has she said other than posted HIS words, and images HE posted, then said she personally found it offensive. To be defamation it must be an untrue allegation, which it is not.
Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, or traducement—is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. Most jurisdictions allow legal action to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.
Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and have been made to someone other than the person defamed. Some common law jurisdictions also distinguish between spoken defamation, called slander, and defamation in other media such as printed words or images, called libel.[
First off, I’m one of the many who thought that Abby’s post was an even-tempered one, and that she just described her reaction to Alex Veronelli’s actions in social media. Second, we’re talking about *social media*; once you put something out on social media — which is meant to for public consumption — everyone has a right to have an opinion about it. And express that opinion! What you’re basically saying is that you and Alex have a right to free speech, but anyone who feels negatively about what you or Alex have said *don’t.*
In other words, I think it’s silly to hold the opinion that once Alex has *publicly* made incendiary comments, it is then the responsibility of anyone who may have been offended to only address it with Alex/Aurifil *privately.* The original comment was public; the response can be public as well.
When my son was a toddler, he was fascinated by the tv show “The Price Is Right”. I suspect it was because of the lights and bells. I noted, however, a practice Bob Barker engaged in — when a bidder got the price exactly right in the initial rounds, they got a hundred dollar bill. Barker would reach inside his pocket to take it out for the male contestants; female contestants were “invited” to reach into his pocket and take it out themselves. This bothered me… a lot. So, one day I sat down and wrote him a letter. I explained that this felt inherently wrong to me. I suggested that women may feel uncomfortable doing it, but that being on television, they may not feel comfortable saying no.
A few weeks went by, and I got a letter from the show. It said that they were discontinuing the practice, and, indeed, they did.
What troubles me about all of this is that Alex didn’t take the opportunity to reflect upon his posts, when give the opportunity. Rather than entering into a dialogue with Abby, and indicating a willingness to take her concerns seriously, the tone of his responses are pretty much, “I don’t care what you think.”
I found many of these things distasteful, but in and of themselves they would not have been things that would have caused me to boycott the product. His lack of sensitivity, however, may prompt me to rethink that position.
Gemma @ pretty bobbins says
Interesting post. But after reading it and all the comments, i am feeling really sorry for Alex who is a human being and probably feels awful after reading all of this. I wonder if any one who has commented here saying how much they dislike Alex’s social media content have taken the time to take it up with him personally before discussing it for all and sundry to read? I hope they have. If we’re going to start calling things out publicly then I think there are a heap of sexist/troubling issues on the quilting/blogging sphere that we could also be discussing. Alex’s jokes are not my style. Neither is the celebrity factor that comes with bing a many in the quilting world. There are lots of examples of that and that could have been discussed without attacking someone personally. Sure, I didn’t love the photos of women on Alex’s lap, but I assumed it was done with consent and therefore I felt equal discomfort toward the designers as I did toward Alex. I admire the huge online presence he has built and i love aurifil thread. I don’t like it when someone is publicly shamed as happens semi-regularly in the bloggy/quilt world. I appreciate that the blogger here spoke her mind, but I feel like the screenshots with Alex’s profile pic turn this post into something that is personally vindictive and takes away from the important and real issue here. Sexism is not ok. Neither is publicly vilifying someone. I don’t think two wrongs equal a right.
Dana - WaterPenny says
If you are doing it to sell a product you’re putting it out there as a company value. His on-line persona is a crafted professional persona that is selling an idea and a lifestyle – even if he does say he is being “himself” he is a professional with a very big company and has put himself out as the face of that company which opens him up to scrutiny.
So I don’t think it is rude to use that public material to share your feelings on a public persona. I personally dislike the marketing campaign a lot. I appreciate feedback on the marketing campaign. And since that marketing campaign involves a persons face and personal opinions, they too are subject to negative feedback. I don’t know how you would possibly comment on Aurifil’s marketing with out mentioning Alex. He is very front and center!
Gemma @ pretty bobbins says
Dana, I meant talk about the unlevel playing field for men and women in quilting, not specifically aurifil. There are many examples of male celebrity quilters that appear to take advantage of this. I agree, one could not discuss Aurifil without discussing Alex.
The other point that I was trying to make is that he is a human being and doesn’t he deserve some compassion /empathy for how he must be feeling this week? I think we can do better than jump on the mob bandwagon and say how much we dislike one person. I applaud the blogger here for speaking her mind, but the commentators read like a mob. I’m all for an intelligent conversation about cutting sexism out of this industry but this post and the comments read like a personal vilification, and it sit badly with me.
It would be wonderful if he posted an apology & said he feels awful, but he has not. We cannot put our feelings and superimpose them on someone else.
Gemma @ pretty bobbins says
The comments on this post show many women who were feeling strongly about something and said nothing. Can we not be bigger people and offer an olive branch of understanding? My point was that Alex is human just like you and me, a little compassion wouldn’t go astray!
Mary Ann says
Love the thread and will continue to buy it. Hated the campaign for all the reasons above and I dropped Alex’s Twitter a bit ago, jokes way to hurtful. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion.
You and everyone else who responded to your blog post are entitled to your/their opinions. As social media is a place you chose or not to go on, follow, read, comment, then chose to not look at those things. Also, don’t follow Mr. Veronnelli’s feed – seems like the logical thing to do.
Here is my opinion – I’m not offended, I found the lap photos to be humorous, as they were intended. If I don’t care for a person’s feed, I unfollow them. As of right now I am not unfollowing Aurifil or Alex Veronelli’s Instagram or Facebook account. He posts much of the same things on Facebook as he does Twitter. I have met him, though briefly for a lecture. His lecture was interesting and informative, I was not afraid to be near him and I asked him to take a photo with me, which he did. His feed is also full of work by quilters that he reposts, promoting their work.
As a woman, I don’t need everyone to pretend that we live in a world that jokes are not told, because they are. I live in the real world – jokes are told and laughed at, people curse, people dress differently than I do. I don’t personally use curse words, but if I chose to not be around every person who did curse, I would have to stay in my home a lot, even many of my fellow quilters curse. If I chose to never be around people whose manner of dress is too provocative (in my opinion), shows too much skin, or just isn’t appropriate for the situation then I would need to stay home. I don’t dress that way, I don’t curse, I don’t tell racy jokes, but I understand that everyone else is not me and I know that out in the world others do and I don’t want to live my life so sheltered I can’t leave my home. I can still chose to live my life on my terms, and not go around with my arms thrown up in the air because the rest of humanity doesn’t follow the same moral compass.
My point is people are too easily offended. I’m not a spokesperson for Aurifil, but I have attended a lecture on how the thread is manufactured and learned why it is a superior thread. I will continue to follow Alex Veronelli and purchase Aurifil – from local shops and tell them it is the thread I prefer – and if they chose to not sell Aurifil, I’ll have to shop elsewhere.
Aurifil is a business and I understand some of what you are saying is that it is about a business persona. I disagree that it is offensive.
After highlighting the inappropriate advertising by Aurifil and Alex Veronelli and the offensive tweets, can we as a quilting community give the company and himself time to clean the slate and regroup. Having pointed out our misgivings and sense of ‘uncomfortableness’ can we allow time out to get it right. Give a second chance. Don’t cut off our nose to spite our face. I too was very ‘itchy twitchy’ about photos and tweets, but believe he deserves the chance to fix it. I use the thread and think of the wider economic losses if we all boycott the thread. Everyone can learn from mistakes, errors in judgements and aim for positive public relations in the future.
I’m really puzzled by all the comments saying, “Oh Alex is such a nice guy in person! He’s really great!”
Because when the author of this blog post complained about Alex’s offensive tweets, he said:
“On socials I prefer to be genuine, exposing outright all my defects & vices, rather than to be settled and look forcedly professional.”
He said that the tweets are him being GENUINE. Therefore, I must conclude that the “nice guy” persona is fake.
I think it’s great that you can speak up about an issue that clearly has been thought about by a lot of people with a varied range of reactions and just start a conversation. It’s also good to see that different experiences and perspectives can be shared and most are commenting respectfully, regardless of their point.
I’d like to share my experience, neither in support or resistance to the issue, just because it’s a bit different.
I’m just a no-name quilter/blogger but I first came across Alex Veronelli during an Aurifil online competition. When I was having an issue with my entry I contacted him via Twitter as that’s where he seemed most active and it was also the method to submit your entry. He was nice and helpful then, and again when I was announced as the winner and we were arranging the postage of my prize via a handful of private messages he was professional. At that time I started following him as I was genuinely interested in the brand. I’d tried Aurifil thread previously and loved working with it, and I enjoyed seeing the other quilts being made that he tweeted links to as they used Auriful thread.
Yes I did receive free Aurifil thread and I enjoy using it, I still would even if I had to pay for it, I just wouldn’t have the range of colours to try that I have as a result of the competition.
I followed for a while and there was the occasional joke between a high volume of quilts that I just flicked over and thought wasn’t really funny. At some point a few months ago it seemed like I was seeing a higher ratio of “jokes”, most of which I just didn’t find funny in a Dad joke kind of way, but a couple in a similar vein to the ones pointed out above that I felt were a bit icky for my taste. It was a few of those in close succession without many quality posts between that lead me to unfollow on Twitter. I’d never been to seek him out on IG or followed, I occasionally would follow a link to individual posts but overall didn’t see enough posts of interest to follow. I did see a few of the lap sitting photos and I in no way mean to judge the people in them, if it were a couple of sporadic natural poses then sure that would play up to the loveable guy image that I think is being put out by him & marketers but as an outsider consumer seeing multiple images looking staged it just came off as being a bit lame on the whole, I didn’t really understand the approach and what they were trying to achieve (again no disrespect intended to any of the individual designers or other professionals who were a part of it).
In the end I’ll still use Aurifil because it’s great thread, it has been reliable and so helps to make quilting fun. I’ve decided to remove myself from the interactions with Alex Veronelli specifically via social media but I’m not going to tell anyone else how they should react, we all bring different pespectives to the situation and we won’t all feel the same, I respect everyone else’s right to a personal opinion based on their own experiences. I do hope that Aurifil as a company listen to the voices that are just trying to say that some of the promotions and personal comments make them uncomfortable (not just we don’t like your product, but a moral objection at a higher level). I imagine that with all the praise and raving fans they don’t see much negative feedback so I just hope that it’s reviewed and considered, as previously mentioned it’s generally not the criticism that hurts but how it’s handled that will make a lasting impression.
Mrs. H says
Now that I know about Alex Veronelli’s disgusting and inappropriate behavior, I will boycott Aurifil Threads.
For those of you (Alex himself, included) who have argued that his personal twitter and Facebook accounts should be off-limits to professional criticism, I just went to both, and 90% of the posts are work-related, not personal, so I think that it is fair to include these data points in our assessment of his behavior.
Just to be clear, both his Instagram and Twitter accounts were heavily edited shortly after this post was published.
Thanks so much for speaking up, Abby. I’m not a quilter but stumbled upon your twitter and agreed that the tweets and photos made me feel uncomfortable.
I notice your update about the photos being removed from the two employees’ accounts, but it was done silently. I would love to hear a statement from the company, as I feel like right now it’s just a “sorry you were offended” situation and not that they have really understood what you were upset about or have any actual remorse. And if they do issue an apology, I hope it’s not a .
whoops, my poor html skills messed up the end, which was supposed to point to “Non-apology apology” at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology
Lisa E says
Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. I’m happy to read that Aurifil has responded quickly to the problem. Kudos to you and them.
I found the images of women on Mr Veroneli’s lap a bit creepy. A wee bit dirty old man and a wee bit daddy issues. I’m sure the women did give their consent and obviously weren’t forced to sit on his lap, but who is going to say no to the thread king? Asking a woman to sit on your lap for a photo puts her in an awkward spot. That’s why celebrities, both big time and small time, get away with so much. People are afraid to say no. They don’t want to fall out of favour with someone they see as powerful.
I just want to add my sincere thanks for standing up for this very important principle. I’m old enough to remember when the attitudes and behavior in that marketing was not questioned. We must vote with our dollars and speak up for the dignity and respect that people (not just women) deserve. Thank you!
Mrs flying Blind says
I have just stumbled on this, and it has given me a good laugh this morning!
Perspective is everything, if Alex was an ‘Alexis’ and most sewists were men, I take it you would be ranting and raving about the way the head of a company was being objectified and taken advantage of.
It is all meant in fun, we, the ‘women’ have built this image up of him, the whole ‘debate’ is so un-necessary, and says more about your hang-ups and stereotyping than anything about the real Alex Veronelli.
We all love sewing and it probably doesn’t get more stereotypically sexist than that, especially when you use that to back your argument of his customer profile.
Saying it is a ‘European thing’ may or may not be right, but as a Brit I can take the humour for what it is and laugh!
No-one says you or anyone has to read Alex’s tweets or follow him here, there and everywhere; I don’t have time in my life to fill it with all the things I do like, never alone stuff or people I don’t like or ‘get’, so I suggest you don’t waste your time with worrying about the opinions (or not) of one man you have never even met, and who only sells thread!
Aurifil is a great thread, I will continue to use it no matter what the boss’s sense of humour or marketing strategy.
Just remember there are way more important, upsetting and controversial things going on in the world to worry about that actually affect people’s lives, Israel, Ukraine, Syria… Why not concentrate on those if you need a cause.
I haven’t actually given an opinion one way or the other on this debate, but I find your last point ridiculous. Because there are terrible things happening in Israel, Ukraine, Syria etc people shouldn’t have opinions on “lesser” subjects? Funny that, having read your blog I’ve never seen you discuss any of these topics…
Mrs Flying Blind says
… and that’s because mine is a sewing blog, somewhere fun, lighthearted and creative, not political or destructive.
This is the first I’ve seen or read anything about this company. I find highly offensive. I will not be buying anything from the company again.
It makes me sad that so many women don’t see just how damaging acceptance of this kind of thing will be if it continues.
Thanks for sharing this information. I had read about your post on Cut to Pieces. That blogger seemed to be skating over the issue as being rather benign. Glad I searched out your post to get the other side.
As a marketer with 25+ years experience in the creative industries, I am somewhat speechless over this campaign. I cannot imagine proposing this concept to a client in any industry. The best way to sell products is by showcasing quality and creativity, and inspiring your customers to buy products. Sadly, it appears that this ill-conceived campaign offends its intended audience. Was it meant to be funny? Marketing 101 will tell you humor is highly subjective and rarely a good approach. Can you be the real “you” on social media? Social media blurs the lines between personal and professional, but it’s always prudent to be mindful that whatever you put out in social media will be perceived as the real “you” and will be accessible by all. Also, let’s remember that the popular Ryan Gosling memes (and I’ve found quite a few of them funny) involve someone whose job is being a pop culture icon, and not leading a company and selling creative products to women. Ryan and Alex are apples to oranges. Surely there are many better strategies to celebrate a 30th anniversary!
Cheryl@ Sew Can Do says
Thanks for sharing this – it’s the first I’d seen of it and it’s really surprising. My initial impression is how unprofessional and unexpected it is from an established thread company. This isn’t some edgy, comedic-based business pushing the envelope to just get noticed – they make high end thread for quilters. That’s not really an audience that craves boob jokes and crotch shots.
My second impression is how sad it is to hear how many women are making excuses for it or how his “real self” is not the same as the “face of the company” persona. Somehow that makes it all ok and not distasteful? Whether it was an idea that came from him or from women at the company it was a dumb move. I’d always thought Aurifil as a premier brand and quality, but now it’s the company with the totally inappropriate PR guy. I won’t be buying from them. Conveniently all the images and tweets you references have mysteriously disappeared. If they really thought it was so harmless they wouldn’t have removed them.
For me the photos missed the marked for marketing purposes. There is nothing inviting about cuddling on a cold, hard studio floor with bright lights on. The second photo with industrial shelving makes me feel I could get hurt physically if he accidentally fell and landed on me. The last photo makes me think of picking up a ton of Lego pieces off the floor – another chore! Regarding his tweet comments, if he has kids they may resent that they are getting looks of sympathy from strangers because they think their father is a jerk to their mother.
Kelly Ann says
Here are a few social media tips…if you don’t like the content, stop following. Do not judge, this will come back and bite you. I’m not sure where you sit in the industry but if you follow Aurifil Threads on Facebook or Twitter you will find their post professional. If you are “friends” with Alex, unfriend him if you find him unprofessional. What kind of enjoyment do you get out of racking someone over the coals? I am sorry that you felt the need to vilify another human,.
This has been a really interesting conversation and I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments. Abby, thank you so much for this post and for standing up against something that is so distasteful! I’m really surprised at the people who are defending Alex, because it doesn’t matter how he acts on a one-on-one basis. The Aurifill company has put themselves out there on the online community, and Alex himself has put himself out there as the head of that company. Of course there will be consequences–good or bad–for whatever image you project online–and Alex is Aurifil. I’ve never tried their thread, so I have no opinion on their product, but I personally think that it’s way overpriced. They have certainly taken a clever marketing strategy to distribute it free to the big bloggers, they praise it’s glory, until EVERYONE online can’t live without it. Smart! Maybe if Coats and Clark or Gutermann or Superior Threads did that, we wouldn’t be able to live without their thread either! For me, I don’t want to sew with thread from some Italian ‘gift to women’ type of guy that thinks that I don’t have worth, as a wife and a mom, because I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model! At least that’s how I take that Tweet of his! That strategy is not a clever one. There is enough pressure put on regular women in the world today that I don’t need that pressure in my sewing room also, which is a place of joy and solace for me! You’re living and working in a world of women: don’t insult the person that’s feeding you! One last thought: He may have not come up with the taglines for his photos, but he was certainly willing to pose for them–I’m especially disgusted with the one from below looking up into his crotch. I didn’t want to see President Clinton’s crotch (a few years ago on the cover of Esquire–horribly bad taste!), and I don’t want to see his!! It’s left a bad taste in my mouth for the entire company.
I have two daughters, 30 and 31 and a 20 year old son. My granddaughter is 7 months old. I remember when birth-control was hard to get as a teenager in a heavily Mormon community. I remember sexist jokes told in a high school english class. I remember being discouraged from applying for a school internship and being told “We are not going to waste resources on a girl that will wind up getting married right out of school”. Why is this kind of behavior still allowed?!!!! As women we need to say no to this kind of behavior. There are corporations that I will not give my business to. Several hundred dollars a year to a big box retailer may not make much difference to a corporation’s bottom line, but at least I know that my hard earned money won’t support this kind of behavior. I used to think that I felt strongly about issues like this because I had daughters. Now I know that it is just as important to me that my son see this as totally unacceptable behavior. I want things to be different for my granddaughter. When my father said no to my high school teacher, he should me that I had value. Saying no to clowns like Alex Veroelli provides me with the opportunity to tell my children and grandchildren they have value. Thank you Abby!
I first saw the lap photos popping up in Pinterest a few weeks ago and they made me uncomfortable. As more appeared, I actually (twice) Googled “Alex Veronelli lap offensive” to see if anyone else was commenting about it. Nothing came up in my search, so I thought maybe I was being overly sensitive and tried to write it off as perhaps a bit of a culture clash. Different people, different personalities – they might be totally okay with a lighthearted photo taken with a friend. But some of the photos featured women who were obviously uncomfortable, perched at the end of his knee or crouching above his leg. I cheered a little when one appeared with her in the chair and him on her lap. Still more photos, and the whole idea just got creepier. Thank you for sharing your discomfort with this, and allowing those of us who were also offended by it to share our feelings.
Personally, I love Aurifil thread and how beautifully it sews and matches my projects. I’ve honestly probably only ever paid for one spool because it was to quilt an entire quilt and I needed more than what I’d gotten for free (I’m NOT a big name blogger at all), but it’s sort of difficult to come by in my neck of the woods anyway (Houston, the home of one of the largest quilt shows in the world and Quilts, Inc). I am “friends” with A.V. on facebook and see his silly sexist jokes on there occasionally, but even though I’m “only” in my 30s, I’ve never really felt offended by them. I guess I treat them like I do any other post I see on FB that doesn’t align with my personal views, I just keep scrolling. I saw some of the aurigirl posts during Spring Market and maybe in hindsight some of the girls looked uncomfortable but most of the posts were from the girls themselves and it seemed to be all in good fun. I don’t do Twitter, mostly because I feel like Instagram is the same thing but with better pictures, and if you find the tweets to be offensive, unfollow him, block him out. Stop giving the little boy the attention he wants. I recently saw a couple of pictures of him with his son in a Superman costume and another with his daughter holding a chicken (?) and I thought those were really sweet and down to earth. Good for you for speaking your mind about the situation, to each their own. It’s been a while since the quilting industry has had any controversy to chatter about. Until seeing this post and all of the supportive “I Heart Aurifil” pictures on IG yesterday, I have never actually seen much of anything that I can remember that I would consider offensive from Alex Veronelli.
Either way, I thought I’d share my two (or three) cents since you had shared yours.
Though I think you bring up some good points I am so disappointed that it was handled in this way. I mean no disrespect and I think there is value in starting constructive discussions via your blog but I don’t think the personal nature of how you approached this lends itself to constructive discussion. I am curious why you chose to address this in this way and not first go directly to Alex and share your concerns? I understand there was a twitter exchange but a well thought out letter to him directly explaining how this all made you feel, in the way that you wrote it here on your blog for the whole of the world to see, would have been a better place to start, in my opinion. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I saw a blog post with my name and words connected to it that essentially question my character. I ask you to please imagine for a moment if someone did this to you- if you opened up facebook or twitter and found the mumblings and murmurings and wondered what it was all about and then saw your name splashed across the top of a blog post. I just ask for us all to find more compassion. The court of public opinion is not the only way to go. I myself did not like lap sitting. But I can also see that there is more to him -that he is a hard working guy who puts what appears to be a tremendous amount of work into his company. His product is fantastic and he does seem to be very supportive of the sewing community. He wasn’t given a chance to hear you in a respectful way and respond and have a constructive conversation about your concerns and maybe learn something from you.
Let me add my own wow. Not directed at Alex, but at the author and the commenters. I don’t understand why in order to “respect women” you have to be a humorless tight ass. This attitude is why I will never classify myself as a feminist. It would sadden me to know that I could never laugh at a stupid joke or flirt with an attractive man or just pull the stick out of my ass and have a good time. Rock on with your righteous indignation and pearl clutching. As a strong, intelligent, confident woman, I think I’ll leave the pearls at home and go out for some harmless banter. I might even sit on a lap! ::gasp::
One minor comment about the photos of women sitting in his lap – I have to question whether the women were entirely in favor of the photo or how much they felt pressured to go along with it. I once worked in an office where we had a member of the Board of Directors who liked to come up behind women on staff, hug them, and give them sloppy kisses on the cheek. None of us felt we could object – our jobs might be on the line.
That’s just my two cents’ worth.
Laurie Bennett says
I haven’t read everything on here, but had to stop reading and comment. As a former school teacher, I kept thinking of what an uproar it would bring to the media if a high school principal asked all of his female teachers to pose sitting on his lap for the yearbook pictures? If he asked for their permission before they all agreed to it, would that make it ok? Take this situation and put it in so many other professional contexts and it just gets that much more icky. I can’t believe anyone could think this is ok, and the women who agreed to the photos either were vicitimized or pressured into agreeing, or they have very poor decision-making skills as business women (my opinion only, of course). Would it have been better if men had also been asked to sit on Alex’s lap as well? Or would that have brought an outcry from the gay community (and rightly so). I don’t care how nice or professional this guy acts in person, since the vast majority of us will never see that side of him, we only have his social media presence to go by. In addition, if he is really as professional in person as people claim, I find it hard to believe that he would ever have agreed to this media campaign to begin with. Something in him thinks his pictures or remarks are “ok” or he would have asked to be presented in a more professional light.
I am not going to condemn or condone Alex’s behavior or Abby’s post. But it has made me think about this whole sitting on the lap business and how it may or may not be appropriate in this instance. I’m still processing all that. But I am feeling incredibly guilty right now that I asked my daughter to sit on Santa’s lap and ask him to bring her toys, all so I could have a cute picture of her.
I just read Alex’s response on FB, and thought, “Well, ok, maybe we’re getting somewhere here.” Until I read all of the comments below it. Are you kidding me? How are all of these people supportive of his behavior? Or did Aurifil somehow materialize these people to make positive comments in order to make Alex’s original behavior not look so bad? I know I sound like a conspiracy-theorist, but I can’t help thinking that Alex is somehow involved in making all of those positive comments. I am dumb-struck. Truly.
I showed your original post to my husband, who is an executive in marketing, and he was totally amazed that this guy could get away with such bad behavior. “Bad marketing, bad company policy, and an opportunity for another thread company to come in and steal customers,” were his comments.
Naomi Vela says
I was in two minds as to whether to leave a comment because I’m sure it’ll probably get deleted…I must be in my own little minority group….I don’t see a problem with what Alex is doing/has done….in fact, I read his posts on Facebook eagerly to see what crazy thing he’s going to say next…..far too many people nowadays have become too politically correct and that seems to have jaded their views on what is still humerous and what isn’t…..Wendy I noticed you asked someone earlier on in the comments whether they would laugh at racist jokes……do you not think you were being a bully towards the person? Going on what I’ve read on this post, I see you as an aggressive (not assertive) bully who has a bee in her bonnet and after reading about a third of the comments left by others, and grown tired of the ‘Alex Veroneli slagging match” I am quite appalled that so many grown women couldn’t, for whatever reason, say NO, after all, isn’t that what Feminists have fought for all these years…our rights to say no if we’re not comfortable with something???
I don’t mind admitting I’m not politically correct, and I have a very warped sense of humour….I laugh at things that perhaps I shouldn’t, but when I find something funny, I laugh at it….that’s my individual right as a human being…..as is Alex being how he is….if you don’t like to see his written comments, don’t read them, if you don’t want to be asked to sit on his lap and have a marketing photo taken (it’s not like everyone is nude and they’re being sold to Penthouse or Playboy) then don’t and don’t be associated with the company…..that’s your choice.
In closing…..did you actually address WHY you think his behaviour is actually questionable? Like do you think he’s going to be one who later on down the track is in court on sexual related charges or what? I didn’t actually see that you’d explained the subject totally….just that you had an ongoing tweet with him and then your power trip boost when he took things down off his feeds but nothing that actually struck me as being worthy of the title given.
Here’s hoping no one ever sees you in a light that causes them to do a post about you on their blog….so you can see how infuriating it must be for the people on the other end of the rifle range.
Thank you for confronting this behavior in a thoughtful and sane manner. You do us all proud.
Ladies, if AV’s comments bother you, walk away. However, europeans have a different cultural life than us (other countries too) so….
Nia Lorre says
I found this last year after some tasteless posts by Alex on Twitter and Instagram. He was already making my skin crawl before I read this Abby, and honestly, I still can’t buy Aurifil thread. I just can’t support a company that thinks such lame, juvenile marketing is how to reach me as a customer.
It is too bad because I used Aurifil thread once and thought it was outstanding. That makes the #aurigirl photos and tacky, sexist jokes even stranger. That kind of tabloid-level pandering suggests and equally trashy product.
Fortunately, there are many other choices, and I choose to support businesses that I feel better represent my values.
Thank you for posting this. I know the issue may just come down to a matter of personal preference, but know that many of us agree with you.
Nia, After this post Alex issued a public apology and the brand removed all of the offensive content. I realized later that the offensive tweets were written by their social media manager and the memes and photos were also orchestrated by her. That’s not an excuse for Alex allowing those things to be posted under his name, but it does change things for me. I’ve since met Alex and we shook hands.
It’s 2017 and I’m still thinking about this man and what he did.
Now that men such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill O’Reilly have been outed , will any well known quilters come forward? I noted that many were happy to be photographed with Mr Veronelli at last months Houston International quilt festival. In an industry that is predominantly female, I find it intolerable that women support his behaviour by standing next to him, by endorsing Aurifil as a sponsor on their blogs. I fought hard in the 70s and onwards to be accepted in male dominated activities such as riding a motorcycle, enduronraxing, working in remote mining fields etc. I fought so my granddaughter doesn’t have to accept sexist behaviours. Thank you for writing about this.
Shortly after this article was published Alex posted a public apology. He hasn’t tweeted or posted anything that could be conceived of as disrespectful towards women since that time. He and I shook hands in person about a year later. One thing I didn’t fully realize when I wrote this piece is that the misogynistic tweets and Facebook posts, some of which I quoted here, were written by a woman. A woman also came up with and executed the #aurigirl campaign as well as the lap sitting photos. This in no way excuses Alex’s participation. He certainly did participate and condone the posting of those tweets and Facebook posts, but they weren’t his idea in the first place. And, as I said, it’s never happened again. I believe in forgiveness and although I won’t forget this behavior it’s significant to me that it was swiftly shut down after this came to light.
Good on you Abby!