H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) is under fire for using a black child to model a sweatshirt sporting the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
The hoodie, which was sold in the clothing chain’s U.K. stores, sparked a social media backlash, with consumers vowing to stop shopping at its stores and calling for an investigation.
H&M apologized for the hoodie and said it would remove the image. As of Monday morning, the hoodie is still available on its website, although the model’s image was no longer posted.
“We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top,” the spokesperson said.
“We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
Upon noticing an advertisement with the photo, social media users erupted in outrage at H&M for what they deemed to be a racist and inconsiderate move.
U.K. Labour Party lawmaker Kate Osamor tweeted that she was “totally shocked, dismayed to say the very least.”
“I was totally shocked, dismayed to say the very least to find this online imagine. @hm do you think this imagery is an appropriate representation of a young black boy?,” Kate tweeted.
Among those expressing outrage were the musical artist Questlove; Models Of Diversity, a London-based group that advocates for greater diversity in modeling and the fashion industry, and New York Times columnist Charles Blow.
Others said the apology from H&M wasn’t enough, given that the hoodie referred to an insensitive slur used against black people.
“And then H&M UK got the bright idea to feature a black boy model with ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ hoodie on its website. How on earth can this be? SHAME ON YOU!” write Models of Diversity on Twitter.
American percussionist Questlove was among those to object via Instagram.
“I’m sure the apologies are a coming. And the ads will be pulled. I’m certain there will Be media fixers and whatnot and maybe a grand gesture like a donation to some charity (donations under these circumstances are the corporate version #SomeOfMyBestFriendsAre move if there ever was one) all this tells me about @HM is that the seats in the boardroom lack something…wanna take a guess?” Questlove wrote.
H&M isn’t the first clothing company to come under fire for clothing that can be construed as offensive. Retailers have repeatedly created firestorms through graphic shirts that aimed to be funny or edgy, but instead waded into touchy gender or racial issues.
The blunder for H&M comes right after the retailer in December reported its biggest drop in quarterly sales in at least a decade. In turn, H&M has trimmed its expansion plans and is even considering closing some locations.