Anger as Nazi-theme clothes stay on shelves

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 12:00am

Retailer 'not sure the issue is so serious' as to warrant withdrawing the items

Fashion chain is baulking at withdrawing its Nazi-themed clothing line despite worldwide public outrage.

'This is Hong Kong, and Chinese people are not sensitive about Nazism,' marketing manager Deborah Cheng said after the company's managers met last night. 'If you grab 10 young people from the street and ask them if they know what Nazism is, I bet you none of them would answer 'yes'.

'People should not be too sensitive. It is simply the creative work of a very politically ignorant and insensitive designer,' she added. was still considering whether it was necessary to recall the garments emblazoned with symbols and references to dictator Adolf Hitler, Ms Cheng said.

'We're not sure that this issue is so serious that we have to have the whole thing pulled.'

Since the South China Morning Post reported the fashion chain's salute to Nazism last week, dozens of complaints about the store have poured in from across the world. Discussion groups have been set up online by people outraged by the incident, and people continue to make their views known to the Post, the clothing chain, and the German and Israeli consulates in Hong Kong.

The chain's 14 shops were decorated with banners bearing swastikas and other Nazi insignia. Nazi flags were hung from the stores' ceilings.

The shops have since removed their promotional displays, but continue to display and sell Nazi-themed clothing. No date has been set for resolving the issue.

Ms Cheng said: 'It would cost millions of dollars to replace the line. Most of the complaints are from foreigners, but our customer base is local Chinese. Even the local [Chinese-language] papers didn't make a big deal out of this.'

She added: 'Chinese do not have such strong feelings about these issues as the Germans and Jews.'

Eli Avidar, Consul-General of Israel, expressed 'severe disappointment and outrage' at's decision. He said many of the people who filed complaints about the chain did not agree the displays in stores reflected ignorance of the Nazi regime.

'We feel extremely offended and upset by the company's immoral actions. We expected that upon realisation of this mistake the whole theme would be removed,' he said.

'This campaign totally desecrates the deaths of millions of people under the Nazi regime, and legitimises evil. We strongly urge the company to remove all Nazi items from their stores.'

Mr Avidar said brands connected with the fashion chain's parent company, I.T, could face public pressure if they were associated with the Nazi banner. The resulting situation would be very costly. I.T sells brands such as Miu Miu, Katherine Hamnett, Camper, Sonia Rykiel, Yohji Yamamoto and Helmut Lang.

The German Consul-General, Heinrich Beuth, urged the public to keep pressuring the fashion chain to take responsibility for its actions. 'They used the symbols as a [public relations] gag. Those symbols are no longer innocent. It is their mistake ... [and] they should admit it. They should have thought about it earlier and chosen a politically less contentious symbol that does not relate to crimes against humanity.'