A nation-wide movement to boycott Abercrombie and Fitch (AF) reached Seattle Saturday when protesters organized by UW students gathered in front of its Downtown store on the corner of Fourth and Pine to promote the boycott and to protest that the shirts were made in the first place.
The Ohio-based clothing giant recently caught the ire of Asian-Americans after launching a line of graphic T-shirts that has been deemed "racist fashion" by Asian-American groups. Some of the shirts depict men with slanted eyes wearing conical hats, a caricature reminiscent of 1950s' style of cartoons.
One shirt reads: "Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs can make it white."
The rally encouraged a boycott of AF with signs reading, "Abercrombie and Fitch -- Asian-Americans are not your bitch!" as passing vehicles honked in support.
The store, during the protest, was full of dichotomy. Three women conversed in Japanese at the store's front counter while they paid for their merchandise, and an Asian-American customer ran out the front door in attempts to dodge protesters. A customer later entered the store wearing one of the controversial T-shirts, which triggered an eruption of dissent from the crowd.
Store personnel mentioned they were glad the protest remained peaceful, but were not allowed to speak to the press regarding the T-shirts.
To some of the protesters, the clothing line targets Asian-Americans in a way no other minority group would be covered.
"You will never see a company like this come out with T-shirts that are offensive to other ethnic groups such as African-Americans," said Andrew Jiang, a UW sophomore.
Another shirt in the line that drew criticism has a picture of Buddha statue, with the slogan "Abercrombie and Fitch Buddha Bash -- get your Buddha on the floor." According to Jiang, this is highly insulting to followers of Buddhism.
"We (Asian-Americans) were targeted because they don't think we have a force here in the United States," said Chia-Chi Li, a UW senior that organized the rally. "Maybe they think we're too passive. This is the point of the rally -- to let them know our numbers are strong and that we won't accept this."
Last week, AF announced its intention to pull the shirts from all of its 311 stores.
Company spokesman Hampton Carney told the press the shirts were supposed to bring "humor and levity" to their clothing line, but they were "very, very, very sorry. It's never been our intention to offend anyone."
Protesters said Carney's apology is not adequate.
"They never admitted the T-shirts were racist," said Jiang. "We want a full-page apology from the company's CEO to appear in major newspapers."
Advocacy groups also request the company to hire a consultant team to ensure sensitivity to minority issues and to offer customers incentives to return the shirts.
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