The hashtag “Lululemon insults China” was seen 204 million times on the Chinese platform Weibo on Tuesday afternoon, with some commentators demanding a boycott of the brand.
The fury started on Sunday, with an Instagram link posted by Lululemon manager Trevor Fleming who was promoting the sale of a T-shirt on the website of Californian artist Jess Sluder, under the name ” fried rice with bats ”.
The long-sleeved T-shirt, with an image of a pair of chopsticks with bat wings on the front and a Chinese takeout box with bat wings on the back, criticized critics who said the two were trying to spark anti-Asian sentiment during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We acted immediately, and the person is no longer a Lululemon employee,” the company said on Tuesday in an Instagram response to a client, without identifying the person.
He described the image and message as inappropriate and inexcusable, and apologized that one of his employees was affiliated with the promotion of the offensive T-shirt.
Fleming did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. On his LinkedIn account, he said he worked at Lululemon until April 2020.
Sluder did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Increase in racially motivated attacks
Reports of racial assaults against Asians have multiplied since the pandemic first appeared in a market selling wildlife in China late last year, before spreading worldwide to infect 2, 4 million people, killing more than 169,000 people. Initial studies have indicated that the virus may originate from bats.
Before it was deleted on Sunday, the publication on Sluder’s Instagram account said, “Where did COVID-19 come from?” Nothing is certain, but we do know that a bat was involved. “
He added, “Starting today, my # limited edition warranties are now available. Link in bio or DM for more details … Thank you for your support and your sense of humor! #Humornothat #batfriedrice “.
However, over the next few days, Instagram users left more than a thousand comments on Luluemon’s official account, accusing him of xenophobia.
China is blocking Instagram in the country with what is known as its big firewall.
A separate statement released on Tuesday on Lululemon’s official Weibo account did not apologize, but said the design was not a Lululemon product and the company opposed “any discriminatory behavior”.
This is not the first time that Lululemon has faced criticism for being insensitive. In 2013, Chip Wilson, the founder of the cult yoga draper, apologized for the comments suggesting that the body of certain women “does not work” in the pants of the brand.