Topshop withdraws 'yellow-face' jewellery line after racism complaints
Freedom Found collection recalled Asian stereotypes associated with Hollywood films of the 20th century, when white actors wearing makeup played roles such as Fu Manchu
Fashion retailer Topshop has apologised and withdrawn “yellow face” jewellery from sale after complaints that it was racist.
The Freedom Found collection was spotted by a customer at a store in Britain, who posted photos of the jewellery – featuring the heads of yellow face characters – to Twitter.
When the customer complained to the store manager, she was told it was “vintage style and not racist”, she wrote on Twitter.
Yellow face refers to Asian stereotypes associated with Hollywood films of the 20th century, when white actors wearing makeup played roles such as Fu Manchu or Charlie Chan.
— Becky 2.o_0 (@summoningesther) July 1, 2014
The characters featured in the jewellery resemble those portrayed in anti-Chinese propaganda of the 1880s, when the Chinese exclusion act was still in force in the United States.
Prominent Asian-American blogger, Angry Asian Man, blasted the products as “bold, blatant racist bull****.”
Topshop said it had withdrawn the matching necklace, earrings and bracelet from its global network of stores, adding that the jewellery was made by a concessionaire.
“The Freedom Found collection is a concession range sold in Topshop stores by its concessionaire, DCK,” the company said.
“Topshop has no input in the design, creation or selection for sale of any of the products forming 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 also apologised, adding:
”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.”
The necklace was not stocked in Topshop’s Asian stores, the company confirmed.
Topshop has 13 stores in Asia, including a large flagship store in Hong Kong and two newly-opened pop-up shops in the city.
The controversy follows an incident in the US in May, when a 6,000-strong contingent of Chinese tourists were welcomed to a California shopping centre by two white entertainers walking on stilts, wearing yellow-face attire.
The group from direct marketing firm Perfect China Company was the biggest ever Chinese tour group to visit the US.
South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Orange County posted photos of the stilt walkers in caricatured Chinese costumes and wearing heavy yellow-face makeup to its Weibo account.
“While I hate the oversensitivity that seems to be growing and the stifling [politically correct] ideals, I find it mind-boggling that in their preparations, not one person turned to another and thought, ‘this might not be a good idea,’” said Sarah Chang, a resident of Orange County.
Werner Escher, a South Coast Plaza executive director, said the mall did not intend to cause offence.“Please be assured that South Coast Plaza’s welcome of the Perfect China Group was just that, a welcome,” Escher said.
“The stilt people provided a ‘beacon’ to direct oncoming guests … and was meant as an enhancement or an extension of giving our guests the red carpet treatment.”
Escher said the mall had not received any complaints about the stilt walkers but promised they would not ignore any they received.