Fashion retailer Shein has apologised for selling a metal swastika necklace and has removed the item from sale worldwide.
But the global brand said that it wanted to make clear the item of jewellery was modelled on the Buddhist swastika, not Nazi, in a statement issued to InStyle on Thursday.
A spokesperson said: “For the record, SHEIN was not selling a Nazi swastika pendant, the necklace is a Buddhist swastika which has symbolized spirituality and good fortune for more than a thousand years.”
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The brand highlighted that the Nazi swastika has a slightly different design: it is pointed clockwise and tilted at an angle, but acknowledged the two were easily confused. “And [as] one is highly offensive, we have removed the product from our site,” it continued.
“As a multicultural and global brand, we want to apologise profusely to those who are offended, we are sensitive to these issues and want to be very clear that we in no way support or condone racial, cultural and religious prejudice or hostility.”
In his book “The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?”, graphic design writer Steven Heller explains how the symbol, which means “well being” in the ancient Indian Sanskrit language, was co-opted by the Nazi party.
He formerly told the BBC: “Coca-Cola used it. Carlsberg used it on their beer bottles. The Boy Scouts adopted it and the Girls’ Club of America called their magazine Swastika. They would even send out swastika badges to their young readers as a prize for selling copies of the magazine,” he says.
Now, despite its longstanding historical and religious meaning, the symbol is widely synonymous with the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler.
In 2016 Japan announced that the swastika ‘manji’ symbol, which was used to represent a temple on tourist maps, was going to be replaced to ensure the ‘smooth implementation’ of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It came after a survey of more than 1,000 people, in over 90 countries, found that many people associated the manji symbol with Nazi Germany rather than Buddhist temples, according to The Telegraph.
Shein has been criticised for a number of days over the sale of the product, which retailed at $2.50 (£1.90), with Twitter users calling out the brand’s behaviour.
American charity, Stop Anti Semitism, also posted screenshots of the item, with the message: “We demand that #shein IMMEDIATELY remove this item from their website as it represents the mass murder of millions.”
This is the second time this week that Shein has had to issue an apology over the sale of items; on Wednesday it took down Islamic prayer mats, which had been marketed as “Greek carpets” and were widely branded as “offensive” on social media.
The mats – some of which featured a picture of Mecca – were sold with no reference to Islam or the importance of prayer mats in the religion, leading customers to accuse the brand of being insensitive to Muslim customers.
Responding to the criticism, Shein promised to implement stricter vetting policies for all products and the creation of a diverse board of staff as a “product review committee” to ensure similar mistakes are not repeated.
The Independent has attempted to contact Shein for comment.