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Topshop pulled this "yellow face" design from shelves due to racism complaints. Source: SCMP
Topshop pulled this "yellow face" design from shelves due to racism complaints. Source: SCMP

‘Racist jewellery’ pulled after uproar

British fashion retail giant Topshop has withdrawn a line of jewellery after receiving a barrage of complaints stating that the range was racist.

The tweet that sparked the outrage. Source: SCMP
The tweet that sparked the outrage. Source: SCMP

According to a report by South China Morning Post (SCMP), Topshop faced public backlash when a customer tweeted a photo of a necklace from its Freedom Found collection that featured a number of “yellow face” head charms.

The jewellery designs were said to closely resemble yellow face characters depicted in the anti-Chinese propaganda that was being spread while the Chinese Exclusion Act was in force in the United States. It was reported that the charms were also reminiscent of the Asian stereotypes that appeared in 20th century Hollywood films.

The customer who first came across the necklace added in her tweet that when she expressed concern to the manager of the British Topshop store, she was told the necklace was acceptable because “it’s vintage style and not racist”.

Following the damning tweet, the retailer – which has more than 440 stores globally, including three in Australia – ultimately decided to implement a worldwide recall of the necklace as well as its matching earrings and bracelet.

The company issued an apology, claiming that fashion jewellery retailer DCK Concessions had made the pieces under a concession agreement, and that it had no input in the design, creation or selection for any piece within the Freedom Found collection.

“As soon as Topshop became aware that there was sensitivity with this particular design, it instructed DCK to withdraw the product from sale, and this has been done,” the company told SCMP.

It further added, “Topshop is a multicultural company with trading partners all over the globe. Freedom at Topshop never intended to cause any offence and Topshop, together with DCK, sincerely apologise if this product has caused upset to anyone.”

While it appears that the items were not sold in any of Topshop’s 13 Asian stores and it is unknown whether the product made its way to Australia prior to the withdrawal, this is not the first time that a retailer has faced consumer backlash for a controversial jewellery line.

As previously reported by Jeweller, fashion jewellery chain Diva caused outrage on social media in 2011 when it launched a range of Playboy-branded accessories. Complaints about the Playboy line claimed Diva was purposely promoting a brand that supported explicit, violent and degrading pornography to “tween” and teenage girls. While the retailer provided no official statement at the time, it reportedly did slowly begin to withdraw the range from shelves.

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Wednesday, 13 November, 2019 04:08pm
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