Lululemon, the athleisure line coveted by influencers and wannabe Goop bloggers everywhere, was forced to issue an apology after one of their art directors shared a wildly racist t-shirt design online that further pushed the rhetoric of the coronavirus being the fault of Asian people. On Sunday, with an Instagram link posted by the Lululemon official account, one of the company’s art directors, Trevor Fleming, showed off a t-shirt on the website of California artist Jess Sluder. The long-sleeved number included the image of a Chinese takeout box on the front with bat wings and ‘No Thank You’ written on the sleeves. The ‘bat fried rice’ design included this description on Sluder’s website:
Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved. Beginning today, my limited edition #quarantees are now available. Link in bio or DM for details… Thank you for your support and sense of humor! #humornothat #batfriedrice”
There have been 100+ daily attacks on Asian Americans since the start of #COVID19. To see people adding to the hurt & racism hurts my heart. I hope someone picks up this story and these individuals take responsibility. I am more proud than ever to be part of the AA community. ✊🏼 pic.twitter.com/nWy9WJeMVE— Kamauri Yeh (@yehwho) April 19, 2020
After calls for a boycott of Lululemon, and The hashtag ‘Lululemon insults China’ was viewed 204 million times on China’s Weibo platform, the company responded on Instagram to a customer’s query (always a handy and easily accessible way to get your message across, Brands.) ‘We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of Lululemon,’ Lululemon said, although they didn’t name Fleming or Sluder. According to Reuters, Fleming’s LinkedIn account says he worked at Lululemon up until April 2020.
Sluder offered her apology to NextShark, writing:
The intent and inspiration for this piece was to make a parody. I like to make people laugh and I was attempting to create light during these dark times. It was never my intention to have the art become negative or racist.
I’d like to apologize to all those affected by the design. It was never my intention. I’m not a person who seeks to offend or make others feel uncomfortable. I’m hoping people can give me the chance to grow and learn from this experience. I will make this right.Thank you for listening.
Yup, totally nothing racist or negative about using the same anti-Asian rhetoric that’s been used as an excuse to exacerbate attacks and harassment of Asian people for months now. It’s just a parody, you guys. That’s why she used the special racist font and everything. She told you all to get a sense of humor already, which was definitely not pre-emptive justification for obvious racism or anything!
Honestly, the biggest surprise here is that the item wasn’t on sale on Lululemon’s website. It’s not like fashion has a long and toxic history of racism, appropriation, and abuse of people of color or anything. I suppose Lululemon prefers to be fatphobic first.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.