By Ryan Velez
The Daily Mail reports that a massive racial blunder by retailer H&M has cost them their partnership with singer The Weekend, along with a huge outrage across social media and beyond. The issue revolves around using an image of a Black child wearing a $10.99 green hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ on its UK and US websites.
The Weeknd has collaborated twice with H&M and performed at the brand’s Spring 2017 fashion show. However, he tweeted on Monday that he will no longer be working with the retailer. “Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore,” the tweet read. It’s not clear at the moment whether The Weeknd had plans for a future collaboration with H&M at the time of the tweet.
In a formal statement, H&M apologized. “We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.” Many may say that this is too little, too late, though.
This is only one of many incidents where the fashion and beauty industry have taken actions that have been seen as offensive towards Black people particularly. For many, the question is not how exactly to call out this behavior, but how to act proactively. Are a few half-hearted attempts at boycotts going to be enough to try and curb this behavior? Or is it a matter of getting more people of color in the upper echelons in these businesses to be able to simply keep these from getting to the public stage? It’s not clear yet, and perhaps the most frustrating thing is that any solution will likely take years to materialize.