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6 Oct, 2019 08:00

Vans shoemaker under fire after dumping Hong Kong protests-themed design from contest

Vans shoemaker under fire after dumping Hong Kong protests-themed design from contest

Popular US skating shoe brand, Vans, has faced a massive backlash after removing a top-ranking design in support of the protests in Hong Kong from its annual competition in a bid to keep away from politics.

Vans’ Global Custom Culture shoe contest invites artists globally to create designs for the company’s shoes, and this year it accepted a submission by Canada-based artist “Naomiso.” The artist’s design depicted Hong Kong’s national orchid on the upper side and a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the Asian hub’s anti-government protest movement. On top of that, the sides of the shoe featured illustrations of masked Hong Kong protesters.
Since voting kicked off on October 1, the protest-themed design quickly gained the highest number of votes.

According to the conditions of the competition, the entry with the highest votes will win $25,000 and have the design added to this year’s Vans production line.
However, apparently fearing the potential repercussions from mainland China for producing an anti-government shoe, Vans on Saturday removed the design from the competition and released a statement. The manufacturer wrote that “as a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance.

Vans’ move and the company’s stance sparked a wave of public ire online, with the hashtag “#boycottVans” instantly gaining traction.

#vanscustomculturecontest please explain why you have removed Naomiso (a Canadian artist) submission. It received the highest vote. Can u explain to each of the 140,579 voters how you have used them for your marketing engagement, obtained their private info and dumped them. Shame #Vans,” a user wrote.  

Many others shamed the company, chiding Vans for not following its motto “off the wall” and turning it instead into a hashtag “off the shelves!” 

Representatives of Vans in Hong Kong later confirmed that a number of designs have been removed from the contest, explaining on their official Facebook account that “a small number of artistic submissions have been removed” due to violations of the competition guidelines by involving the brand in a political row. 

Also on rt.com ‘Deeply sorry’: Versace in hot water as China accuses fashion brand of questioning its sovereignty

Vans, however, is not the first popular brand to get knitted into the political turmoil in Hong Kong. The ongoing protests there, which escalated over the summer months, have already seen a number of footwear and clothing companies land in hot water for addressing the protests in one way or another, including Versace, Coach and Givenchy. Versace has found itself at the center of a scandal after its T-shirt design referred to China’s Hong Kong and Macau as separate states. Coach and Givenchy also sparked uproar after launching products listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries. All three brands were forced to apologize to Chinese customers for their mistakes.

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