Asian American civil rights advocates are demanding an apology from Pottery Barn Kids, which has been selling two Halloween costumes -- a kimono and a sushi chef outfit -- that members say they find culturally "offensive."
"It's not that ethnic dress is offensive. What we find problematic is packaging this type of dress as a costume," said Ling Woo Liu, director of strategic communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are real people who cannot and should not be commodified as costumes," Liu said.
The group and others sent a letter Friday to Sandra Stangl, president of Pottery Barn, and to Williams Sonoma, its parent company, asking for the "immediate removal" of the outfits and an apology.
By Monday morning, links to the costumes -- for online sales -- had been taken down. Liu, though, said there has been no response to the groups' request for an apology.
Maggie Porges of LaForce + Stevens, a New York-based marketing and public relations firm that works with Williams Sonoma, said she was not aware of the costume issue or the letter.
The kimono outfit originally retailed for $59 and later was discounted to $34.99. The sushi chef outfit had a price tag of $39 but was reduced to $9.99.
Liu described the chef costume as being composed of traditional Japanese attire with a Japanese-flag bandanna.
"We were surprised, quite frankly, to see these costumes being sold by a retailer based in San Francisco, a progressive city where more than one-third of residents are of Asian American descent," Liu wrote in the letter, speaking for multiple groups, including the Asian Law Caucus, which has its headquarters in the Bay Area.
"There is a history in this country of using caricatures to reinforce stereotypes of minorities as perpetual foreigners who are somehow less 'American' than white Americans," Liu wrote, referencing commercial characters such as Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima.
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