In response to the rise in violence against the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community, society is calling out acts of injustice that had previously gone unnoticed or unaddressed, and fashion brands are on full display. Last month, organizer Julian Han Bush initiated a Change.org petition entitled “Rebrand Chinatown Market: Chinatown Is Not For Sale,” highlighting the racial insensitivities demonstrated by the brand, which is white-owned and originally known for its “bootleg” merchandise.
Critics claim Chinatown Market profits off the AAPI community despite not being a part of it, and further perpetuates the stereotype of associating Chinatowns around the world—havens for AAPI immigrants—with knockoff products. The streetwear brand, known for its smiley face merchandise, has garnered a cult following since its founding in 2016. It is sold in stores such as Urban Outfitters and Foot Locker and worn by celebrities including LeBron James and Alicia Keys.
Last week, fashion watchdog group Diet Prada learned of the petition and amplified it on its Instagram account, highlighting its endorsement from notable fashion personalities from the AAPI community including Humberto Leon, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim and Tina Leung. Four days later, the petition garnered a total of 3,367 signatures.
Chinatown Market responded through an Instagram post on Monday stating, “We should have done this sooner, but it is never too late to do the right thing.” It announced its upcoming renaming and noted it will donate proceeds from existing products to AAPI-focused nonprofits.
Prior to its announcement, the brand showed its support for the community, sharing an anti-Asian hate message on March 18 following the Atlanta shootings that killed eight people—six of whom were of Asian descent. In the message, the brand condemned hate and promoted avenues of support for the community. However, many felt this was not enough, considering the brand’s history of insensitivity.
On Tuesday, Bush published an update to the petition sharing news of the brand’s renaming and stated “the Asian American Community made its voice heard.” He went on to thank everyone who got involved, including the celebrities and watchdog groups that helped elevate his platform.
Diet Prada has been on a mission to take down what it feels to be injustice in the fashion community, most recently alleging that Guess “duplicated nearly every element there is to duplicate” in its latest minimalist tote bag. The group claimed that it closely resembles the ultra-popular Telfar bag, which has a similar design, size range, branding and price point. Guess fell under additional scrutiny for allegedly mirroring the product of a Black designer and passing it off as its own. Following the allegations, Guess pulled the bag from stores.