We’re not going to beat around the bush here: Hong Kong is pretty darn materialistic. Whether you agree with their taste, you can’t deny that a lot of Hongkongers take their style seriously. However, we hope that even the most style-conscious would balk when that superficial focus coincides with the iconography of genocide.
Recently, a Coconaut (who requested anonymity) told us that a lighter and a postcard with the emblem of the Nazi political party – an eagle atop a swastika – were being sold in the Tai Koo branch of popular lifestyle shop Homeless. In an email, the unhappy customer told Coconuts Hong Kong that a staff member whom he complained to had refused to take the “highly inappropriate” items off the shelves, saying the symbol was “part of the designer’s work”.
Photo: elegantsis via Facebook
The customer says he hopes that raising awareness about the issue will lead to Homeless removing the product, not only from its display case, but from its product line.
Staff from shop in question later told Coconuts Hong Kong that the lighter and “postcard” (actually a “product description card”) are part of a military-themed collection by Taiwanese watch brand Elegantsis. The JF48D-Day watch collection was launched in June 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, according to the watch maker on its social media page.
The limited collection comes in two different designs – USA and Germany. The USA set contains a watch with a leather strap, an additional steel strap, a lighter and some strap changing tools. The national emblem of the United States – a bald eagle – is engraved on all of the items in the set. The corresponding items in the German version are also engraved with an eagle, but feature a swastika underneath.
When questioned by Coconuts Hong Kong, one of the staff members at Homeless, surnamed Lau, asked, “I know [the symbol] is sensitive, but can you tell me why a Nazi sign shouldn’t be on these products?”
Lau claims the collection was designed “in remembrance of military history” without the intention of perpetuating any specific ideology, echoing the remarks Elegantsis brand manager Perry Khor made to Watchuseek when the watches were first launched. At least, that’s what we think this jumble of word salad means:
“Watch design concept is not to promote any party (since there is a German version as well), instead of using the time background, the spirit of the World War II, more integrated into watches, creation of new military-style, we would like to express the ‘do not fear and firm’ belief.”
To simply dismiss the design as a commemoration of history seems ignorant at best, considering Hitler himself literally wrote in Mein Kampf that “an effective insignia can, in hundreds of thousands of cases, give the first impetus towards interest in a movement.”
Just for good measure, here’s a picture of the Führer himself in 1939, doing the Nazi salute to a legion of Nazi soldiers, in front of an enormous statue of an eagle on top of a swastika:
Photo: Hugo Jaeger, Getty Images
It’s unclear where else the collection is being sold, but according to the brand’s Facebook page, Elegantsis watches are available in countries like India, Qatar, Belgium, Italy, the USA, and other countries.
Lau said the shop had so far received no complaint from customers over the sales of the products, adding that Elegantsis products are stocked in many watch shops across Hong Kong. According to the Coconaut who first tipped us off, the items were still available for purchase on Monday. We’ve reached out to Elegantsis for comment and will update the article if they respond.
The swastika is originally considered as a religious symbol derived from Sanskrit word svastika, meaning well-being. The symbol was widely used in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. After it was appropriated as a Nazi symbol in the 1920s, the swastika has since become a taboo symbol, synonymous with the horrific genocide of Jewish people, ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ people carried out by Germany during World War II.