Canadian sportswear brand Lululemon has quickly attempted to distance itself from a “Bat Fried Rice” t-shirt design that has ignited online anger after being posted onto Instagram.
The t-shirt features a Chinese take-out box with bat wings and a pair of chopsticks with bat wings along with the words “No Thank You.”
The design was posted to Instagram by artist Jess Sluder (deadringer) who captioned the post:
“Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved. Beginning today, my limited edition guarantees are now available. Link in bio or DM for details… Thank you for your support and sense of humor!”
In response to the resulting outrage, Sluder has since set his account to private after first making some apologies and explanations in the comments underneath the post, claiming that he never intended to profit from the shirt and had apparently not realized that the racist design was racist.
“The racial aspect of this honestly had not occurred to me, which is clearly something I need to explore further,” he wrote before going on to say that he’s “been alone too long” because of the coronavirus quarantine.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the involvement of Trevor Fleming, the global art director for Lululemon, who promoted the t-shirt design in his own Instagram bio.
Sluder’s original post also tagged Fleming, though Sluder claimed in later comments that no one in Lululemon was involved in designing the shirt.
Fleming has also set his Instagram to private, changing his bio to read: “I deeply apologize for putting the URL in my bio. I did not design the t-shirt, nor did I participate in any part of its creation.”
Lululemon has fired off an official statement on WeChat, declaring no one employed by their company was involved in designing or producing the “disgraceful” piece of clothing.
This appears to be true, at least retroactively, because the brand has promptly fired Fleming.
@richvuu28 Thank you for your feedback. At lululemon, our values are core to who we are, and we take matters like this extremely seriously. The employee involved is no longer with the company.
— lululemon (@lululemon) April 21, 2020
Headquartered in Vancouver, Lululemon was founded in 1998 as a purveyor of yoga pants. It has since expanded internationally, entering the Chinese market in 2016 and currently boasting almost 30 stores on the mainland.
As a final aside, it’s worth noting that company founder Chip Wilson previously explained that he chose “Lululemon” as his company’s name because he thought it was “funny” to hear native Japanese speakers say the name.