- Don-Alvin Adegeest |
Lululemon, the Canadian athleisurewear giant, ignored all crisis marketing etiquette when one of its art directors endorsed a long sleeve t-shirt print featuring a Chinese takeaway box and text “bat fried rice” on Instagram. On the tee’s arms the words “no thank you” is written.
The out of sync instagram post was met with a monumental backlash which has let to the hashtag #lululemoninsultschina to be viewed over 200 million times on China’s Weibo platform.
The t-shirt, designed by independent Californian artist Jess Sluder, was supported by Lululemon’s Senior Art Director, Trever Fleming under the guise of “quarantees.” Sluder, in a now removed Instagram post, wrote: “Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved… Beginning today, my limited edition #quarantees are now available. Link in bio or DM for details…Thank you for your support and sense of humor! #humornothate #batfriedrice.”
China is a key profit driver for Lululemon
Lululemon was quick to respond, terminating Fleming’s employment, presumably to calm the storm in what is its fourth largest market where it operates 38 stores.
During its last earnings call on March 26, Lululemon chief executive Calvin McDonald said it planned to double its store base in China this year, according to Charged Retail.
In a statement to NextShark, which first reported the story, Sluder said: “I’d like to apologize to all those affected by the design. It was never my intention. I’m not a person who seeks to offend or make others feel uncomfortable. I’m hoping people can give me the chance to grow and learn from this experience. I will make this right. Thank you for listening.”
Lululemon stated: “At Lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are and we take matters like this extremely seriously. 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 behaviour. We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of lululemon.”
Fleming stated he was “deeply sorry to everyone who I have hurt” and deeply regretted “not taking the necessary steps to properly review what I was promoting”.
Image via Jess Sluder