Swastika T-shirts pulled from sale after backlash against US design studio that tried to ‘reclaim’ Nazi symbol

KA Design, which launched shirts emblazoned with rainbow versions of the symbol, withdraws them from sale following fierce criticism online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 12:36pm

A US design studio that tried to “reclaim” the swastika by selling shirts emblazoned with rainbow versions of the Nazi symbol has pulled its products after weeks of backlash.

KA Design first pushed out its idea for “The New Swastika” in a July 12 Facebook video that reviewed the swastika’s long history.

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For thousands of years, the video noted, the swastika had been used in numerous cultures to symbolise peace, love, luck, infinity and life.

“but one day Nazism,” text in the video noted, in one of the clip’s many capitalisation-challenged semi-non sequiturs, “they stigmatized the Swastika forever. they won / they limited our freedom / or maybe not? the Swastika is coming back. . . . introducing the new Swastika.”

The video then showed an array of swastikas set against a rainbow background and the words “PEACE,” “LOVE” and “ZEN.”

“Wear the freedom,” the video declared, closing with the design studio’s motto: “Questioning Boundaries.”

Soon, the Facebook video was flooded with comments.

Trying to ‘reclaim’ the swastika to be edgy is an insult to all the people who lost their lives during that war
A Facebook user

Some thought it must have been a joke, while others were outraged, blasting the campaign as “disgusting” and “ignorant”.

“There is no ‘new swastika’, and frankly your inability to understand that on an ethical and culturally sensitive way is downright disturbing,” a Facebook user wrote in one of the less profane comments. “And absolutely anti-Semitic. Shut this campaign off.”

Others tried to give the brand the benefit of the doubt – but, even then, accused the designers of glossing over why the swastika had become problematic for the sake of profit.

“Trying to ‘reclaim’ the swastika to be edgy is an insult to all the people who lost their lives during that war,” another Facebook user wrote. “I hope you take down that video and issue an apology, or your company is going to end up crashing and burning. We get what you were trying to accomplish, but some things need to just stay in the past and be burnt. Not everything can and should be reclaimed. Please rethink this. You can still save your company with an apology.”

Nazi chic is the term coined for the use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture. Designed to shock, it emerged in punk movement in London in the 1970s: the Sex Pistols’ first television appearance showed a person of their entourage wearing a swastika.

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In 2003, Hong Kong fashion chain Izzue came under fire for its range of Nazi-themed clothing.

It apologised and removed the clothes in response to public outrage.

“We have absolutely no intention to recognise or promote Nazism and [we intended] no political implication ... on the usage of the swastika,’ Izzue said in an advertisement carried by the Post.

“In response to the comments received, display banners and all related merchandises have been immediately removed from our shops.”

In March this year retailer Forever 21 pulled a line of T-shirts from the shelves after customers noticed there were “Nazi tags” on them. A white T-shirt featured blue, orange and black symbols, two of which the women felt looked like Nazi tags. The number 88 was repeated all over the T-shirt, 88 being a white-supremacist tag for HH or Heil Hitler, ‘H’ being the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Additional reporting by Kylie Knott