Pottery Barn apologized for selling a Halloween costume of a sushi chef and a kimono that an Asian civil-rights group had complained were culturally offensive.
The retailer confirmed late Monday that the items had been removed from its website.
“We did not intend to offend anyone with our Halloween costumes and we apologize,” said Leigh Oshirak, vice president of public relations and marketing for Williams-Sonoma, parent company of Pottery Barn. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
Asian civil-rights activists spoke out after the store began selling the products, a kimono and a sushi-chef outfit featuring the Rising Sun of the Japanese flag.
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The group demanded “immediate removal” of the clothing and requested an apology.
“Our problem is not with the attire itself; it is with the fact that Pottery Barn is marketing these outfits as costumes,” wrote Ling Woo Liu, director of strategic communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
She cited a student-led campaign launched at Ohio University several years ago, using the mantra “We’re a culture, not a costume,” and urging youths to think deeper when it comes to Halloween clothing.
The poster campaign sprung up on other campuses and includes phrases such as “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.”
She called Pottery Barn’s apology via email to the Los Angeles Times “very passive.”
“It would help to show they have learned a lesson,” she said.
“Like other minorities, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are real people who cannot and should not be commodified as Halloween costumes,” Liu said.
“We were surprised, quite frankly, to see these costumes being sold by a retailer based in San Francisco, a progressive city where more than one-third of residents are of Asian American descent,” Liu wrote in the letter, speaking for multiple groups, including the Asian Law Caucus, which has its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area.