Pottery Barn has apologized for selling a sushi chef and kimono Halloween costume that an Asian American civil rights group said were culturally offensive.
“We did not intend to offend anyone with our Halloween costumes and we apologize,” said Leigh Oshirak, vice president of public relations and marketing for Williams-Sonoma, the parent company of Pottery Barn. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
Pottery Barn confirmed late Monday that the items had been removed from its website.
The sushi chef costume featured the Rising Sun of the Japanese flag, and Asian American activists called for an “immediate removal” of the outfit and requested an apology from the retailer.
“Our problem is not with the attire itself; it is with the fact that Pottery Barn is marketing these outfits as costumes,” said Ling Woo Liu, director of strategic communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Liu cited Ohio University’s student-led campaign, “We are a culture, not a costume,” which began in 2011 as an attempt to raise social awareness to combat racially stereotypical Halloween costumes. The campaign featured a series of ads showing people of different races and ethnicities next to offensive costumes.
Liu called Pottery Barn’s apology “very passive,” and said, “It would help to show they have learned a lesson.”
Pottery Barn isn’t the only retailer to face backlash for its costumes. Last month, Walmart pulled its “naughty leopard” toddler costume for shelves amidst criticism of the suggestive name. While the costume itself was tame, it was the “naughty” label that raised eyebrows.
The “Anna Rexia” Halloween costume that was pulled from websites back in 2011 has recently re-emerged. A Change.org was started in protest of the costume, and asked seller HalloweenParty13.com to remove it from its website. HalloweenParty13 hasn’t responded to the petition yet.
When the costume was first pulled from shelves, manufacturer Dreamgirls International said, “We understand that some people will not find the dark humor funny… Halloween is an eccentric and irreverent holiday for people to express themselves in a myriad of ways. While some people may not like a particular costume, it is a matter of taste and personal discretion.”
Director of Marketing Lar Hovsepian said, “At this point, it’s out of our control.”