Swedish fast fashion chain H&M has apologised for featuring a black child modelling a garment with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle”, also removing the advertisement and item from stores.
H&M was forced to apologise following widespread backlash from consumers, staff, stakeholders and the media.
“Our position is simple and unequivocal – we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry,” the retailer stated.
“H&M is fully committed to playing its part in addressing society’s issues and problems, whether it’s diversity, working conditions or environmental protection – and many others. Our standards are high and we feel that we have made real progress over the years in playing our part in promoting diversity and inclusion. But we clearly haven’t come far enough.”
The retailer said it agreed with all the criticism that the controversy had generated and stated that “even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.”
The item will be recycled after being removed from shop floors.
“We appreciate the support of those who have seen that our product and promotion were not intended to cause offence but, as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities – and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time,” the retailer stated.
“Racism and bias in any shape or form, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable and need to be eradicated from society. In this instance we have not been sensitive enough to this agenda.”
In its latest trading update, the retailer saw sales slow during its fourth quarter, citing reduced footfall to stores.
* This story first appeared on sister site Inside Retail Australia.