Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian apparel brand known for its expensive yoga wear, apologised on Tuesday after an employee posted a coronavirus-related T-shirt design online that sparked a backlash on Chinese social media for “insulting” the country.
The company, which is quickly gaining popularity in the Chinese market, issued an apology and statement distancing itself from the design after images began circulating of a long sleeve T-shirt named “Bat Fried Rice”.
Pictures posted to China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo showed a design featuring a small image of chopsticks with bat wings in red on the front and a winged Chinese takeaway box with the words “No Thank You” on the back. There was no mention of China or the coronavirus pandemic on the T-shirt.
The social media storm appears to have erupted after a link to the design was shared on Instagram by Trevor Fleming, the art director at the company.
The T-shirt was originally listed for sale on the website of artist Jess Sluder, who has no connection with Lululemon, for US$60.
Seems like a lot. You can find that shirt for less on a number of sites. It wouldn’t be hard to make your own variation on it.
Sluder has since taken the shirt down and apologized. So did Fleming. It didn’t save his job.
“We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of Lululemon,” the firm said in an Instagram response to a customer on Tuesday, without identifying the individual.
It called the image and the post inappropriate and inexcusable, and apologized that one of its employees had been affiliated with promoting the offensive T-shirt.
In a statement to Reuters, Fleming said, “It is something I deeply regret, and my eyes have been opened to the profound ripple effect that this mistake has had.”
The glorious cultural revolution goes on.
“I am deeply sorry to everyone who I have hurt. I deeply regret not taking the necessary steps to properly review what I was promoting, and in this case, doing something that goes against my personal beliefs. I take full responsibility for my choice and regret the spread of the negativity and hate it promotes. My values are not consistent with this t-shirt in anyway,” Fleming continued with the apologies.
The original description for the shirt said, “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” “
No sense of humor allowed.