Fashion Retailer Shein Pulls 'Swastika Pendant Necklace' from Site Following Social Media Backlash
Numerous Twitter users called out the $2.50 necklace for being "disgusting" and "offensive"
Online fashion retailer Shein removed an item labeled "swastika pendant necklace" from its website on Thursday after facing intense backlash on social media.
The Instagram account HereFortheTea2, which serves as a beauty and style industry watchdog, first drew attention to the necklace, which features a left-facing swastika (a holy Hindu and Buddhist symbol) in an Instagram post on Thursday. Many misinterpreted the symbol to be the emblem of the German Nazi party (which used a right-facing and tilted swastika), which ignited backlash on social media. "Shein, a company that’s become popular for YouTube 'try on hauls,' appears to be selling swastika necklaces?!!! I am disgusted," the post read.
Others quickly began calling out the fast fashion retailer on Twitter and Instagram for promoting anti-Semitism by carrying the pendant, which was listed for sale at $2.50. "@SHEIN_official care to explain why you think it’s acceptable to sell swastika necklaces?," one person wrote on Twitter.
A longtime customer of the brand tweeted, "I probably am (was) the most loyal @SHEIN_official customer around, but now I’ll be taking my business to @zaful_official or really any other company that doesn’t have such repulsive disregard for what that swastika represents to the millions of people killed by those who wore it."
About an hour after HereFortheTea2 first called out the swastika pendant, Shein removed the necklace from its site.
In a statement given to PEOPLE, a representative at Shein said, "For the record, Shein was not selling a Nazi swastika pendant, the necklace is a Buddhist swastika which has symbolized spirituality and good fortune for more than a thousand years. The Nazi swastika has a different design, it is pointed clockwise and tilted at an angle. However, because we understand the two symbols can be confused and one is highly offensive, we have removed the product from our site."
The statement continued, "As a multicultural and global brand, we want to apologize profusely to those who are offended, we are sensitive to these issues and want to be very clear that we in no way support or condone racial, cultural and religious prejudice or hostility. We are actively working through our internal structure and processes to resolve these issues, including a product review committee to ensure that we respect our diverse community. We are a global and all-inclusive brand and we are taking extreme measures to ensure that all items are cleared through a rigorous vetting process before we retail them."
Just last week, Shein made headlines when 24-year-old journalism graduate student and activist Khadija Rizvi called out the brand for carrying rugs with illustrations of the Ka'bah and mosques that looked very similar to prayer mats Muslims use to pray.
"I am disgusted. I am livid. @sheinofficial is also PROFITING off muslim prayer mats (janemaz/sajadah) by selling them as ‘fringe trim carpets’ for people to use casually around the house," Rizvi wrote on Instagram. "A few have the Kaaba printed on them. THIS IS HIGHLY OFFENSIVE, Not only is it disrespectful but they once again renamed and stole credit from a whole faith this time, by failing to label it as a muslim prayer mat; which allows people to use it casually as a decorative mat."
Rizvi continued, "It is NOT a carpet and must be treated with respect and you don’t ever wear shoes on it."
Two days later, Shein removed all the items in question and released an apology on its Instagram feed. "To our community - we made a serious mistake recently by selling prayer mats as decorative rugs on our site. We understand this was a highly offensive oversight and are truly sorry. Since it was brought to our attention, we immediately removed the products from our site and asked our vendor to stop selling to others. We also formed a product review committee with staff from different cultures and religions so a mistake like this doesn't happen again," the brand said.
"As a global brand, we vow to do a much better job in educating ourselves on different cultures, religions and traditions to ensure our diverse community is respected and honored," Shein continued. "We offer our sincerest apology to all whom we have hurt and offended, and hope we can earn your forgiveness."