Updated Monday, Jan. 8, 2017, 4:18 p.m. EST: The Weeknd, who has collaborated with H&M for previous collections, announced via Twitter that he has decided to sever ties with the clothing company.
The Canadian singer posted on his Twitter account Monday afternoon that he was “shocked and embarrassed” by a photo from H&M’s U.K. website that showed a black boy wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie.
“I’m deeply offended,” the Weeknd wrote, “and will not be working with H&M anymore.” According to Business Insider, he collaborated with the major international fashion retailer to launch two collections in 2017.
The backlash over the racially charged photo intensified Monday as H&M was left scrambling for an explanation as to how such a problematic photo could have made it onto its site.
In a longer, more detailed statement sent to Business Insider, H&M wrote:
We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.
Business Insider noted, however, that the offensive sweatshirt, which was taken down from H&M’s U.S. site Monday, still appeared to be for sale on the U.K. page.
It’s really not that hard to avoid this kind of marketing disaster.
The major fashion retailer H&M has still offered no explanation for how a photo of a black child wearing a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” hoodie passed by anyone with a lick of common sense, racial sensitivity or melanin and then made it onto its site.
As the New York Daily News reports, the offensive photo appeared on H&M’s U.K. page as a “printed hooded top.”
Following backlash on social media over the weekend, the Stockholm-based clothing giant issued a pithy, lukewarm apology Monday morning for pairing a black child with a known racial slur.
“This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologize to anyone this may have offended,” the retailer told the Daily News.
Well, splendid, H&M. But how did a photo with such blatant racial overtones make it onto the site to begin with?
The photo circulated widely over social media this past weekend, with New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow asking the company if its officials had “lost [their] minds.”
As HuffPost notes, some chalked up the offensive image to carelessness, cluelessness and a lack of diversity in decision-making positions.
But the rest of the model-hoodie pairings had others wondering if the choice really was born of a lack of cultural understanding.
Another H&M ad photo showed a white boy wearing a hoodie with the words “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert.” According to HuffPost, a third option showed a white child in a navy-and-white animal print without any messaging.
H&M joins a string of major companies that have embarrassed themselves with racist or insensitive advertising. As CNN Money reports, in recent months, Dove has come under fire for a social media post for its body wash showing a black woman morphing into a white woman, while Kellogg raised eyebrows for a cereal box that depicted one “darker-skinned” Corn Pop character (the rest were yellow) in a janitor’s uniform, pushing a mop.
It’s exhausting enough when advertisements exhibit racism toward black people and people of color in the usual ways—be it through erasure or colorism or playing to tired stereotypes. Is it really that tall an order that a term with a long, international and very public racial history not be slapped on a black child in 2018?