Fast fashion e-tailer Shein is best recognized for its cheap summer dresses, prolific clothing drops, YouTube videos, and now, a certain swastika necklace.
On Thursday, @HereForTheTea2, an Instagram account which dutifully chronicles influencer drama, posted a screenshot from the brand’s website. It appeared to show a “Metal Swastika Pendant Necklace” available for the small price of $2.50.
After the public call-out drew criticism on Instagram and Twitter, it only took Shein a few hours to scrub the product from its site.
A representative for Shein told The Daily Beast, “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. The Nazi swastika has a different design; it is pointed clockwise and tilted at an angle.
“However, because we understand the two symbols can be confused, and one is highly offensive, we have removed the product from our site. As a multicultural and global brand, we want to apologize 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.
“We are actively working through our internal structure and processes to resolve these issues, including a product review committee to ensure that we respect our diverse community. We are a global and all-inclusive brand and we are taking extreme measures to ensure that all items are cleared through a rigorous vetting process before we retail them.”
The Anti-Defamation League—and most westerners—categorize swastikas as a “general hate” and Neo-Nazi symbol. However, as some on Twitter noted, the shape can be used in religious imagery for Hindus, Buddhists, and others.
As the ADL notes, swastikas are “associated with good fortune.” A search for similar jewelry on Etsy yields nearly 300 results, with many calling the symbol “ancient.”
But Hitler and the Nazi party’s affinity for the design transformed it into an ugly visual shorthand for anti-Semitism. With over 75 years of violent history associated with swastikas, it’s difficult for Shein to defend the jewelry.
As one person put it on Twitter, “yes the symbol has many meanings, but what’s the FIRST thing that comes to mind…”
It has not been an easy month for Shein. Just last week, the brand pulled a “decorative carpet” from its site after an activist and journalism student named Khadija Rizvi noted it was an appropriation of Islamic prayer mats.
The brand posted an apology to its social media accounts, saying it had been in touch with Rizvi and has formed a “product review committee with a staff from different cultures and religions so a mistake like this doesn't happen again.”