A company called KA Design, which is reportedly based “somewhere in Europe,” is trying to reclaim the swastika, and — big surprise! — people aren’t having it. According to Dazed, the company launched last month and has been selling wares covered in rainbow swastikas (along with words like “peace” and “zen” and “love”) on a website called Teespring, where their “about” section reads: “We celebrate freedom. We want to explore our boundaries, and push them forward. We love humanity, love and peace. We are KA.”
While the company claims to want to create a “new swastika” that’s no longer steeped in hatred, they’ve completely failed to realize that the symbol is still very much in use by neo-Nazi and other hate groups around the world and rendering it in garish rainbow colors isn’t going to do much to differentiate it or make it less jarring to look at. As many have noted, the shirts could also be seen as culturally appropriative to the Indian and Indonesian communities from which the swastika originated over 5,000 years ago and for whom it is still sometimes used as a religious symbol. Others have expressed concern that the rainbow gradient applied to the symbol might conflate it with the LGBTQ movement. Finally, in addition to being offensive to a whole lot of different groups of people, the shirts are just plain cheesy and unattractive, which may have something to do with the fact that, apparently, no one on the KA Design team has a background in fashion or design. It’s unclear, what, exactly, they do have a background in.
“We are free to reclaim whatever we want. However, it is very important to find the right way to do it without forgetting why this something is being reclaimed,” a representative for KA Design told Dazed. “The new meanings given to ‘our Swastika’ wouldn’t make any sense if not based on the previous ones. We want to promote love and peace to remind everyone that mankind can be better that what it currently is and was in the past. It’s not in our interest making everyone forget about this past.”
Following social media backlash, Teespring has stopped selling the clothes, which were priced at $20 per tee shirt. KA Design has refused to comment on how many were sold or how much money they made but said that they would be fine selling to neo-Nazis, because “if some kind of neo-Nazi goes out wearing our shirt, he will raise the same kind of questions and discussions as a communist wearing the same shirt. That’s why we don’t care about who buys the shirts.”
“This is an offensive use of #Nazi imagery. Fashion can’t reclaim this symbol from (hate),” tweeted the US-based Anti-Defamation League earlier this week in response to the uproar. Meanwhile, Andrew Anglin, the editor of a neo-Nazi site called the Daily Stormer, has expressed his support for the designs.
Obviously, this idealistic, misguided attempt to rebrand a symbol that most seem to agree has no business being rebranded has failed epically — and thank god it has. While social media often gives way to knee-jerk overreactions to largely inconsequential issues, it’s safe to say that the swift takedown of ludicrous, widely offensive stuff like this is exactly why it can be a very good thing.
In response to having their products removed from Teespring yesterday, KA Design penned a Facebook message that reads: “We brought out the worst in people. We believe in a world of infinite forgiveness. We forgive everyone. And we hope to be forgiven. Let Love Prevail.”