A staple of the New York sneaker scene, Japan-based retailer Atmos has come under fire in recent weeks with allegations of racism. As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the world in response to the police killing of George Floyd in May, Atmos is one of the numerous brands that's been called out for race-related offenses.
Specifically, a June 22 Instagram post by a former employee, @kickitwitdd (Damaries Negron), detailed some of the more egregious allegations levied against Atmos. Among her complaints, Negron alleges that the store, which operates in Harlem, underpaid its Black and Latino employees and eventually fired its minority workers and filled the positions with people from overseas. Negron also alleged that the store was known to backdoor its high-demand sneakers to overseas channels in order to fetch a higher premium.
Weeks later, the retailer has issued a formal response attributed to founder Hommyo Hidefumi and the Atmos team. Read Atmos' full statement below.
After listening and learning from our employees and your feedback, it has become clear to use that we owe our community and apology. Atmos Harlem owes its success to the support of the Black community. We believe Black Lives Matter. We acknowledge that Black and brown people have suffered inequality in the U.S. for generations. We play a part and have a responsibility to support BIPOC people and be actively anti-racist in the way we operate our business.
The experiences described by employees and customers are not what I hoped to create when bringing Atmos to the U.S. 10 years ago. It was wrong of me to not operate a store in NYC with the same care and attention I do with managing my stores in Tokyo, and not taking the time to understand the cultural differences. I acknowledge that the store team has suffered as a result. We are in conversations with past employees to start the journey of repairing those relationships and healing the past.
I learned a lot the past few weeks. You have helped open my eyes to the reality of the racial inequality as they relate to COVID, streetwear, Harlem, and the US as a whole—and how Atmos has failed the Black community. We did not create a safe, fair, and amicable environment in the neighborhood we opened our store.
Running Atmos is my passion and life's work, and I am dedicated to righting the wrongs of the past and earning back the trust of the community. We are announcing new management changes and action steps tomorrow to demonstrate how we will change.