Lululemon is apologizing for an "inappropriate and inexcusable" T-shirt design that was promoted by one of its art directors. The design, shared Sunday by art director Trevor Fleming and designed by California artist Jess Sluder, was called "bat fried rice" and featured images of bat-winged chopsticks and a takeout box with the words "No Thank You," seemingly a reference to thesince-debunked theory of the coronavirus' origins.
"Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved," the artist captioned the post, which was since been removed but screenshotted and shared by dozens of social media users. "Beginning today, my limited edition [qaurantees] are now available. Link in bio or DM for details… Thank you for your support and sense of humor! [bat friend rice]."
More #COVID19 racism by linking bats (incorrect virus source; it's undetermined) with the iconic Chinese American takeout container & fried rice. This is NOT #humornothate. Your laughs and "art" put people's lives & safety at risk.April 19, 2020
The T-shirt design got the hashtag "Lululemon insults China" viewed more than 204 million times on China's Weibo platform and Instagram users left more than a thousand comments on Luluemon's official account accusing the company of xenophobia, according to Reuters. The design has also sparked calls to boycott eh company. In response, Lululemon issued a formal apology. In the apology, the brand confirmed that it was distancing itself from Fleming.
"At lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are...The t-shirt design is not a lululemon product. We apologize that an employee was affiliated with promoting an offensive t-shirt, and we take this very seriously. The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behavior," the statement said, according to Business Insider. "We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of lululemon."
While Fleming has not responded to requests for comment, the outlet reports that his Instagram page, now set to private, has a message in its bio reading, "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." Fleming has worked for Lululemon since 2017, though his LinkedIn page shows that he left the company this month.