Photo by Patrick Whittemore
Dressing down: Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics store employees Ross Higgins, left, and Steve Zastawny wear only aprons (and briefs) yesterday.
A cheeky promotion to raise awareness about excessive product packaging turned out to be a bummer yesterday for the Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics store at Natick Collection.
Two male employees planned to wear nothing but buttocks-baring aprons bearing the phrase "Ask Me Why I'm Naked" for the U.K. company's campaign to educate consumers about how to "go naked" and help the environment by buying products that are packaging-free.
But Natick police visited the store Tuesday, warning employees that they risked arrest if they exposed their backsides, manager Ross Higgins said. So Higgins and his co-worker instead wore black briefs under their aprons while working at the store yesterday afternoon. Higgins said he was disappointed that he couldn't fully participate in the campaign as planned.
"The whole thing was never about our bums," he said. "It was not obscene, and it was never anything sexual or lewd. It was about the excessive packaging issue."
Lush sells some products such as shampoo bars and soaps that don't require plastic bottles and have little or no packaging. Its campaign, which was voluntary for employees, was scheduled at 27 U.S. stores, though some malls nixed it for being too racy.
Natick Police Lt. Brian Grassey said his department was tipped off about the event. "They were cautioned that, dependant on the conduct during this event, that should they violate the law, they were subject to arrest," he said. Grassey, who confirmed two police officers monitored the store yesterday, said the charges could have ranged from disorderly conduct to open and gross lewdness.
General Growth Properties Inc., which owns Natick Collection, said it wasn't the mall that contacted authorities. "It didn't violate their lease, and that certainly was what we were concerned with," spokesman David Keating said.
The campaign went on without a hitch at Providence Place, where Lush manager Kris Blackbeard and her assistant manager wore aprons only. "Our mall manager sat across from our shop to make sure that nobody was harassing us, but we had no issues," Blackbeard said. "We did have people come in and ask us why we were naked, and they were intrigued by the idea of naked products. But no one was offended."
Lush stores in Boston and Cambridge opted not to participate after getting "uncomfortable" calls inquiring about the possibility of naked women, according to Rachael Flaherty, manager-in-training of the Harvard Square store.
"We actually had a police officer who popped in to double check if we were doing it," said Flaherty, who did bare her derriere for last year's campaign while working at Lush's Soho store.