Hand wash, drip dry, insult president

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By Melanthia Mitchell

April 23, 2004  |  SEATTLE (AP) -- Clothes can make a statement. Urban-bag designer Tom Bihn has discovered that labels can, too. Bihn's sales have doubled since a French-language presidential insult mysteriously made its way onto the bilingual washing instructions for hundreds of his laptop bags and backpacks.

The labels read: "Nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui."

Translated into English: "We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him."

Bihn's self-titled company has drawn national media attention and sparked Internet chatter since a Seattle customer spotted the insult and posted a photo of his bag's label on his Web log.

Bihn is careful to note that the tag doesn't specify who "our president" refers to.

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

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

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

About 500 labels remain, and Bihn continues to use them. He also has given them to customers who want just the label.

The company also has rolled out a line of "French Label" T-shirts with the enlarged label silkscreened onto the front. The company says all profits from the shirts are donated to the Seattle Vet Center.

Bihn, who has a Seattle store and a Port Angeles factory outlet, said he has gotten some complaints, but most people who call him say the labels are funny.

None of Bihn's 10 employees has taken responsibility for the tags.

"We're not really looking real hard because it's been really good for business," Bihn said. "If somebody admits to doing it we'll give 'em a raise."