Hong Kong fashion retailer Giordano was accused of sexism on Monday after it unveiled its new “Team Family Series” clothing line. The range includes men’s t-shirts featuring the word “work” and a dollar sign, and women’s t-shirts featuring the word “cook,” alongside illustrations of sandwiches.

The Giordano website. Photo: Giordano screenshot.

The series is being promoted on the Giordano website as well as on billboards across the city.

Facebook users hit back, calling it “another great step backwards for feminism” in Hong Kong, and “another in a long line of tone-deaf ads.”

Tess Lyons, who works in marketing, originally drew attention to the range on a private Facebook group using a “#notmyfamily” hashtag. She was alerted to the ad campaign by her 14-year-old daughters and told HKFP that she was concerned the range reinforced harmful stereotypes: “In Hong Kong the majority of households have both parents employed outside the home. Yet Giordano’s Family Time line has the female wearing a ‘cook’ t-shirt? And the youngest child – is relegated to cry? Why not laugh? And since when isn’t cooking work? The insensitivity of this campaign is stunning.”

The Giordano website. Photo: Giordano screenshot.

Hannah Foreman, a 10-year-old activist for gender issues at her ESF school, told HKFP: “Giordano reinforcing stereotypes is wrong. We need to tell them this isn’t acceptable to me… It says a man works and a woman cooks. Stereotypes are wrong. I need to speak against this.”

Other commenters said they had registered complaints with the retailer, whilst one expressed concern that the move was deliberate: “I honestly think companies do this completely on purpose – for free advertising. I know it seems like bad publicity but it gets the name out there and people forget what they did, but the name sticks and they remember the brand,” one commenter said.

Mark Loynd – an executive director at the company – apologised to several complainants over email: “First and foremost, on behalf of myself and Giordano, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for bringing this to our attention and to apologize. A public statement will be issued this evening regarding the matter.”

Last year, Japanese multinational air-conditioning manufacturer Daikin ran a promotional campaign in Hong Kong that declared in Cantonese: “choosing an AC is like choosing a wife.”

Another clothing retailer, Evisu, has also come under fire locally over sexism following an ad campaign featuring a model in controversial poses.

HKFP has reached out to Giordano for comment.

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.