By Odia Melissa Nyembo
The beginning of 2018 started off with a bang, but not a good one for fast fashion retail store H&M.
For most, H&M has been the go-to place for a quick fashion fix or to look on trend on a budget. However, in early January, H&M released a new advert for their kids line and one of the items was a green hoodie with the phrase “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” The phrase was plastered across the front of it and worn by a black child.
Although this might seem like a big deal to some, it’s important to recognize the past and the history of animal-like behavior being associated with blackness. For many, it’s a painful reminder of colonialism, slavery, and discrimination against black people in the past and several would like it to leave it there.
The problem is not only the ad itself but that the people making these decisions didn’t see it as a problem. The brand has shown that they know very little about racial appropriation and people are taking notice. Thanks to social media brands across the fashion industry whether fast fashion or luxury are held accountable to their wrong doings. In 2018 and in this political climate situations like this should have never had happen. There is no more room for ignorance and people need to be called out. No one is perfect and people can make mistakes but asking if unsure is always the way to go.
Since the scandal, H&M has reportedly hired a diversity manager Annie Wu. Although this is a step in the right direction, a change in the marketing team and creative directing needs to happen as well.
The incident touched an overwhelming number of people of all races, especially people of color and they all reacted on online. The ad caused so much controversy that it grabbed attention of many celebrities like The Weeknd who ultimately cut ties with the brand as a whole.
The massive retail chain caused fury across the world. In South Africa stores across the country were protested and destroyed stores (for the most part they were NOT looting) to send a message that behavior like this would not be tolerated.
According to the Business Insider have recorded their worst sale record in the last quarter of 2017. Will the brand ever recover?