H&M Backlash-The Orlando Times
H&M Faces Backlash After “Racially Insensitive” Ad
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Clothing store H&M is facing serious backlash after featuring a photo of a Black boy wearing a hoodie that read “coolest monkey in the jungle”. The Sweden-based clothing chain released an official apology for what many are calling an insensitive association between the young model and the derogatory label for Black people.
The hoodie, which was marketed as a “printed hooded top,” on the store’s United Kingdom website included other designs such as one labeled a jungle “survival expert” which featured white models.
Hennes & Mauritz, now known as H&M is a multinational clothing-retail company known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. In 2000 H&M opened its first store outside Europe, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York and now has four stores in four different malls in the Central Florida area alone.
The global clothing company has come a long way since the first Hennes store opened in the Sweden in 1947. In the 1960s the ’M’ was added, and the product range grew to cover fashion for men, babies, kids and youth. They currently employ 61,000 people globally and have more than 4,500 stores in 69 markets.
The initial outrage over the hoodie was sparked by social media users who quickly circulated the photo, forcing H&M to apologize.
“We’re deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print,” the company said in a statement. “Therefore, we’ve not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering.”
The statement continued: “It’s obvious that our routines haven’t been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We’ll thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”
Regardless of their apology many people, including various celebrities, have voiced outrage at this blatant disregard of racial sensitivity.
Musician, The Weeknd, cut ties with the brand after the photo went viral online. Rapper, G-Eazy, also ended his brand deal with the clothing company shortly before his line was set to be released.
"Whether an oblivious oversight or not, it's truly sad and disturbing that in 2018, something so racially and culturally insensitive could pass by the eyes of so many (stylist, photographer, creative and marketing teams) and be deemed acceptable," the rapper said. "I can't allow for my name and brand to be associated with a company that could let this happen. I hope that this situation will serve as the wakeup call that H&M and other companies need to get on track and become racially and culturally aware, as well as more diverse at every level."
Basketball star LeBron James similarly called out the image.
“We as African Americans will always have to break barriers, prove people wrong and work even harder to prove we belong but guess what, that’s what we love because the benefits at the end of the road are so beautiful!” James wrote in a post showing the boy wearing a crown accompanied by the words “King of the World.”
As a way to protest many artists have reimagined the picture, adding phrases like “King Of The Jungle” and images of crowns to the original photo, similar to the one posted by James.
“I think that H&M is a store that caters to everyone’s style. I know that I can always find some awesome statement pieces and accessories when I go,” said Alexis Lauren, a local college student. “I think the controversial issue of the sweatshirt is affecting H&M negatively. I don’t feel that this is something that will harm H&Ms brand forever, however, I feel that it is something that will be remembered for a long time.”
Surprisingly, the mother of the child who was featured in the controversial ad, Terry Mango, said that people need to “get over it.”
In a series of since-deleted Facebook posts from the Stockholm, Sweden native, she said that she didn’t support the backlash over the ad. Noting that she was with her son when he modeled the hoodie in question.
Despite the mother’s comments, some people believe that H&M should not get off the hook so easily.
Violence was abundant at four malls over the weekend as riot police were called to stop protesters as they vandalized a string of H&M’s stores in South Africa.
Clothes, displays, and mannequins were sprawled across the floor as activists demanded the retailer shuts its doors or face "indefinite" action.
Floyd Shivambu, spokesman for the Economic Freedom Fighters party, a South African revolutionary socialist political party, praised the action, saying the retailer was "now facing the consequences for its racism".
The chain decided to close its South African stores in the wake of the invasions for “the safety of our staff and customers”.
The extreme action is receiving mixed reviews online, with some welcoming it and others questioning the negative effects this form of protest will have on locals who earn a living working at the stores as well as the overall fight for equality.