Lululemon Apologizes After Bat-Fried Rice T-Shirt Backlash
Canadian retailer Lululemon came under fire on Sunday after one of its senior employees promoted a Bat Fried Rice T-shirt, triggering mass outrage and accusations of racism online. The employee in question was global art director, Trevor Fleming, who has since been dismissed from the company.
Screengrab via Twitter
Fleming promoted the quarantees, designed by California artist Jess Sluder, on Instagram. As seen below, a pair of chopsticks and a takeout box are adorned with bat wings while one sleeve reads No Thank You in bold red ethnic typeface. The artist captioned the photo, Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved. He continued, Thank you for your support and sense of humor! #humornothate #batfriedrice
Screengrab via Instagram
Amidst the social media users hounding Lululemon for a response were prominent Asian-Americans figures Dorothy Wang, Eddie Huang and Rocky Xu, who all publicly voiced their opinions disparaging the T-shirt design. A day later, Lululemon issued a statement to the press and on its official Weibo account ultimately apologizing and distancing themselves from the situation.
In the statement, a Lululemon spokesperson wrote:
At lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are, and we take matters like this extremely seriously, the t-shirt design is not a lululemon product. We apologize that an employee was affiliated with promoting an offensive t-shirt, and we take this very seriously. The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behavior. We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of lululemon.
Fleming has since disabled his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles. Both Fleming and Sluder issued lengthy statements to NextShark apologizing for their actions.
As with many brands that have come under fire in China (see Versace, D&G and KAWS) musings of boycott were quick to make the rounds on Chinese social media. The hashtag #lululemon# on Weibo, which roughly translates to Lululemon suspected of insulting China has been viewed over 9.8 million times as of press time. Some Weibo users pointed out that only official statements were made on Lululemons official Chinese channels, whereas only statements to press were issued by their North American counterparts.
With a rapidly growing middle class, the Asia Pacific region is one of Lululemons main targets for international expansion. In 2019, the company reported a 70% increase of sales year-on-year in China during the first half of the year.
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