Continuously problematic online retailer, Shein, is under scrutiny once again for selling offensive items with hateful symbols and inappropriate cultural meanings. Last week, the China-based fast-fashion company came under fire for selling Muslim prayer mats as decorative rugs, undermining and appropriating the important religious significance in the Islamic faith. Muslim activist groups and networks such as Diet Prada were quick to notice the offensive item and called Shein out on its abhorrent tactic. People directly contacted Shein to discuss the outrage and problem, which led to the company issuing an apology and removing the mats from their online site.
Well, that was last week… This week, Shein finds itself in the middle of an outrage after customers found a swastika pendant necklace being sold on the site. It’s absolutely baffling why any brand would produce and sell anything with the anti-semitic symbol of hate and religious supremacy, especially on the heels of another religiously offensive scandal. How the necklace found itself on the site is horribly astonishing, especially since the swastika symbol is so directly ingrained in society as a hateful and violent symbol.
With their recent apology for the prayer rugs still looming in everyone’s heads, Shein issued another statement claiming that they intended the necklace’s symbol to refer to the Buddhist symbol of peace, an ancient use of the swastika that quite clearly doesn’t comply with most of the world’s modern view of the symbol. While the origins of the symbol might suggest a different meaning, the vast majority of people associate the swastika to Nazism and Anti-Semitism. Whatever the intentions, Shein is an international retailer, selling to customers worldwide. They should have put in more thought before selling a symbol representing literal war and genocide.
Since discovering the necklace on Shein’s website on Wednesday, people continue to call out the brand for their problematic practices such as child labor in exchange for super low prices and questionable quality. The offensive items coincide with NFL player DeSean Jackson’s headlining anti-semitic comments earlier this week that sparked outrage on social media and news sites, making Shein’s mistakes exceptionally timely. Shein’s incidents aren’t the first time a major fast-fashion group’s faced scrutiny for religiously offensive appropriation and symbols.
Zara made headlines back in 2014 for selling a striped shirt with a yellow Star of David appliqué blatantly resembling shirts that concentration camp prisoners wore during the Holocaust, among other scandals that have plagued fast fashion brands for years. Hopefully, with renewed calls for social justices and a more in-depth look into the fashion industry, brands, especially fast fashion labels, start to think a little more about the sensitivity of the designs they sell. Shein’s latest mistakes might also wake people up from their naïveté about what and where they shop from both an ethical and sustainable angle.