The streetwear brand Chinatown Market has changed its name to MARKET, following accusations of cultural appropriation, Complex reports.
Mike Cherman founded the brand in 2016. According to GQ, Cherman initially wanted to name the streetwear label Canal Street Market, after a street where vendors are known for selling fake luxury brand goods. He instead decided to call the company “Chinatown Market” because Canal street runs through Chinatown.
In March 2021, the brand was criticized after failing to adequately speak out about the Atlanta shootings that killed six Asian women. According to Input Magazine, critics noted that the brand’s response to the shooting was slow. The Instagram posts condemning AAPI hate appeared on March 18, two days after the shooting occurred. Many felt the brand had posted support to save face and business.
“Frankly, consumers (or ex-consumers, I might add), are right,” Maya Ernest wrote in her article for Input Magazine. “The brand took action only after not doing so threatened its business.”
Consumers also criticized the brand for not donating enough to the AAPI community, Input Magazine reports.
Asian Americans launched a petition shortly after to ask the brand to change its name.
“The concept of Chinatown is not for sale, especially not by a white person who only uses the word Chinatown as a synonym for bootleg,” Julian Han Bush, who started the petition, wrote. “It is an act of cultural theft for a white person to profit off of people like Lebron James, Alicia Keys, and many others wearing CHINATOWN clothing.”
Bush told AsAmNews in an email interview that he tried to contact Cherman before the clothing label’s posted about AAPI hate. He found Cherman’s cell phone number on his old portfolio and cold-called him.
Cherman answered the phone and confirmed his identity. Bush asked Cherman what he planned to post about #stopasianhate. He claims Cherman then told him he had the wrong number, hung up and blocked all unknown numbers.
“At that point, I realized that this brand had no business using the name of our community for profit seeing as they were evasive and frankly just didn’t seem to give a sh*t about the movement,” Bush told AsAmNews in an email.
The brand continued to receive criticism on social media. Diet Prada a popular Instagram account and fashion watchdog group that advocates for accountability in the fashion industry posted about the label’s missteps. The post received over 47,000 likes.
Cherman and his team did not immediately address the criticism the brand received on social media. They eventually released a statement on March 29 announcing that the brand would change its name.
“The Asian American community is rightfully demanding all of us think and act more honestly,” the statement read. “We should have done this sooner but it is never too late to do the right thing.”
Cherman elaborated on the decision in an April interview with GQ.
“Early on, we said, We’re not taking from Chinese culture,” he told the magazine. “But that was ignoring the name itself. And through conversations we had over time, we had to make sure we weren’t being ignorant of that. You know, just the name itself was confusing enough to create an issue. I think, to be able to acknowledge that and take a step back and figure out how we can do this right, is the best approach.”
Bush says Cherman called him the day the brand announced its name change to “”seek [his] blessing.”
“I’m happy they did it, but disappointed that we had to get them Diet Prada’d to do it, meaning they didn’t rebrand out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather as a survival ploy because once the DP article dropped, their retailers and collabs starting dropping them,” Bush said in an email. “I don’t give them any credit for rebranding simply because we made their existing brand untenable.”
Bush wants to see the brand give back to the community.
“I want to see them donate the Chinatown trademark and merchandise and let that continue as a separate company run by Asians that actually supports Chinatown,” he said in an email.
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