H&M has apologised for an image on its UK online store featuring a black child in a green hoodie, with the phrase "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" printed on the hoodie. The apology comes after the Swedish retailer copped flak for the loaded term, as the monkey is often being used in racial and ethnic slurs, especially against the black community.
Meanwhile, H&M also engaged a white child to model two other versions of the garment, with one featuring the phrase "Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert" while the other showcasing jungle animal prints, Adweek reported.
According to multiple media reports on news sites such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Forbes, H&M said it was "deeply sorry" that the picture was taken.The company added that its "routines have not been followed properly" and it will "thoroughly investigate" the cause of this to prevent similar mistakes from occurring in future. It also removed the image from its channels, and the green hoodie from its global product offering. But the product will still be available on the UK site, it said.
A quick check by Marketing found that the garment is still available on H&M's UK online store, even though the image with the black child has been removed.
Following the news, Canadian singer The Weeknd tweeted that he was "deeply shocked and embarrassed" by the image. As such, he will no longer be working with the company. The Weeknd previously collaborated with H&M for its "Spring Icons" campaign and "THE WEEKND COLLECTION".
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018
Twitter users have also demanded the brand explain itself, with one writing "In the year 2018, there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness". Others added that the brand is clueless about racial and cultural issues in various markets. Some also called for consumers to boycott the brand.
In the year 2018 there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness. If look at other sweaters in same category they have white kids. We have to do better. pic.twitter.com/Av4bS4t6yn — alex medina (@mrmedina) January 8, 2018
I’d say yes. In 2018 there’s no way a group of art directors looked at this and didn’t fully grasp what they were doing. Bad press is still press. That’s what they’re banking on.
— Steph (@StephPhotoGeek) January 8, 2018
I worked for them for years and they’re clueless sometimes. The head office in Sweden is very disconnected to issues of racism, cultural & social challenges. They seriously probably think this is cute. — Hasanilove⭐️ (@HasaniReyes) January 8, 2018
That was my first thought. Europeans are so clueless about what is offensive in different markets. Time for some PR fast talking and apologies. — Steph (3bagsfull) (@3bagsfull) January 8, 2018
but wait for it...there’s also the loaded message on the orange hoodie...the junior tour guide & jungle official survivor expert...the entire narrative is a fail for 2018. pic.twitter.com/8hpHQPxOgQ — paisley (@alwayspaisley) January 8, 2018
H&M is not the only brand to have come under fire for being release racially insensitive ads. Last October, Dove was criticised for its racist body wash ad. The ad featured a black woman removing her shirt to miraculously become a white woman, who then removes her shirt and turns into an Asian woman.
Meanwhile, Watsons Malaysia’s “Legenda Cun Raya” campaign also sparked online debate last June, after an ad nearly 15 minutes long portrayed a “blackface” lady as unattractive. In China, an ad by Qiaobi, a laundry detergent brand, also copped flak for its blatantly racist ad featuring a woman doing her laundry when a black man splattered with paint appeared. She then proceeded to stuff a laundry detergent capsule in his mouth before shoving him into the washing machine. When the load of laundry was done, a young fair Asian man with a clean shirt climbed out of the machine.
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