The clothing retailer H&M apologized Monday for an image appearing in its online store that showed a black child model wearing a hooded sweatshirt that said “coolest monkey in the jungle.” The company removed the image Monday and said it would also pull the shirt from its stores worldwide.
The image was widely criticized online for its reference to a monkey, an animal that has long featured in racial and ethnic slurs. The Weeknd, a Canadian pop star of Ethiopian descent, was one of those who criticized the clothing giant, writing on Twitter that he would decline to work with the company in the future.
In a statement, H&M said it agreed with those who were “upset about the image.”
“We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print,” the company said in a statement. “Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally.”
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018
As of Monday afternoon, the shirt, without the original model image, was still available for sale on its British site.
The company said it would investigate how the image, which appeared in its online store in “some European markets,” and the shirt itself both came to be.
“It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt,” the company said. “We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”
But mistakes like this happen in the world of advertising with some regularity.
In October, Dove, the soap company owned by Unilever, apologized for a Facebook ad that showed a black woman removing her brown shirt to reveal a smiling white woman in a crisp white shirt underneath.
The ad was criticized for employing a racist trope that black people could use soap to clean themselves into white people. In a statement at the time, Dove said it was “committed to representing the beauty of diversity” but had “missed the mark” with its ad, which was removed from Facebook.
In April, the skin care brand Nivea pulled an ad that used the slogan “white is purity” after it was accused of racial insensitivity (and celebrated by white supremacists.)
That same week, Pepsi apologized for a television commercial featuring Kendall Jenner that was criticized for borrowing imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement. Critics said the ad trivialized the protest movement and the killings of black people by police.