Politics and fashion have long gone hand-in-hand, whether for symbols of oppression (think of the colour-coding on The Handmaid’s Tale, for example) or for symbols of peace. But it isn’t often that fashion brands attempt to reverse a negative historical symbol like the swastika and expect favourable results.
KA Designs thought it knew better when the company released a new line of shirts and sweats with colourful, printed swastikas accompanied by words like “peace” and “love” on them. Their intent was to bring back the traditional meaning of the now famed Nazi signature, which way (way) back in the day was supposed to represent love, infinity, luck and life. It was only during the second world war that Nazis turned the mark into a sign of repression, racism and hatred.
Still, those messages and associated memories are pretty painful for plenty of people, which is why most consumers felt the brand’s release was in poor taste — despite the company’s in-depth explanation of their decision on Facebook.
While the move seems to be on brand for the company’s overall messaging (“Questioning boundaries” is its motto), it obviously hasn’t been well received. We suppose we understand the positive intent, especially as swastikas are still being carved into cars and painted on walls as a symbol of hate. But by using the actual swastika on your clothing it feels like you’re disregarding an important piece of history… or even worse, unintentionally throwing it in people’s faces. Plus people who actually believe in this kind of racism will probably be going out and sporting the attire for all of the wrong reasons.
We aren’t the only ones feeling icky about all of this. The internet has exploded appropriately, starting a #BoycottTeespring campaign after the shirts popped up for sale on Teespring. Additionally, the shirts have gotten the attention of Israeli-Jewish Congress — in particular Executive Director, Arsen Ostrovsky.
As of now KA Designs seems to have no intention of removing the line, but the company continues to defend its release.
“We really enjoy the swastika. Not because of any of the meanings associated with it, but because of the shape and of how it looks,” the company told Mic in a statement. “However, the strong bond between the swastika and Nazi values was unbreakable. We didn’t feel free. For the right reason. So we ended up using this symbol with the aim of sharing its opposite values: love, peace and freedom. Our project wants to express the victory of love and humanity against hatred and Nazism in general.”
We guess we’ll see how this all pans out, but we know one thing for sure: we have no plans of purchasing one of these tees anytime in the foreseeable future.