Racially Insensitive Storefront Display at Eton of Sweden in Toronto Condemned


UARR Letters to Eton of Sweden CEO Hans Davidson

On August 10th, Eton of Sweden responded with a public statement on their website to the Eton Window Instalment in Yorkville, Canada.

The CEO of Eton of Sweden emailed the President of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations the following:

August 9, 2014

Dear Mr. Pieters,

On behalf of Eton and our employees in Canada and worldwide, I extend my most sincere apology for all offense caused to you and the Canadian community by the recent window in our Yorkville office. Our company’s history is one of equal respect and appreciation of all people. It is important you know that our Canadian team had no malicious intent in constructing this window display. As described in our recent press release responding to public concern over this occurrence, the window was intended to simply show our raw material, cotton displayed with a suitcase representing the travel-readiness of our product. But in reality, it was a poor choice of both materials and design. The fact that the finished result reminded anyone who saw or read about it of the terrible memory of slavery as you describe in your letter, makes the entire Eton family very sad and remorseful. Additionally, the fact that our Canadian team did not immediately recognize that the display could in any way be associated with such a sensitive subject, reminds us that training is needed for our team in order to avoid anything like this again in the future.



Open Letter to Eton of Sweden

August 9, 2014

An American entertainer visiting Toronto, walked through Yorkville and noticed a storefront display at a boutique store Eton of Sweden, that triggered her to take a photo and post it to her social network with the question – “Ummm… Do you see??? What are they advertising for the Eton shop in Toronto, Canada??”

The storefront display contained the following – a cotton shirt amidst the visual recreation a cotton plantation from the slavery era including two nooses hanging from the store’s ceiling attached to a small suitcase resembling a casket, and surrounded by a replica of unpicked cotton bolls in a storefront display to persuade and influence buyers. What was described by Eton of Sweden as “Whimsical” in appealing to its consumers purchasing decision, is nothing short of a lack of sensitive consideration to the brutal, exploitative and destructive legacy of plantation slavery that enslaved millions of blacks on cotton plantations from the 1600s to the 1800s.

During the era of Black enslavement, enslaved Blacks toiled on cotton plantations under the whip, hunger, ill health for no compensation. By using the ropes tied in the form of two nooses, the storefront display at Eton of Sweden in Yorkville reminded those knowledgable of the slavery era of lynching, which was a form of violence against Blacks during the imperial ‘show and tell’ of the bygone era of chattel slavery.

The impact of slavery is described in an OpEd written in 2007 by the current president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations entitled Slavery’s Long Destructive Legacy

Reacting to public outrage and public condemnation of Black Canadian community leaders, window shoppers, and a television reporter who stood outside the store and spoke candidly against the historical offence of the display, an employee of the Eton of Sweden store removed the rope. “They took down the noose but the harm is incalculable”. See http://www.citynews.ca/?p=852371

The store needs to develop a better understanding of the destructive legacy of slavery and its longstanding racist impact that continues 180 years after emancipation. Using an insensitive storefront display to sell cotton shirts was a retailing advertising failure on the part of Eton of Sweden Yorkille location, and their lack of knowledge of its connection to the exploitation, pain and suffering that generations of Blacks experienced on cotton plantations in order to enrich wealthy slave owners, is inexcusable.

A full public apology is required from Eton of Sweden in Yorkville.