H&M was forced to offer an apology on Monday after posting an online advertisement featuring a black child modeling a sweatshirt reading “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.”
“We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States,” wrote H&M in a statement obtained by Fox News. “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.”
Outrage over the ad bubbled up on Sunday, after social media users noticed that H&M’s U.K. website was advertising this particular hooded sweatshirt using a young black child, while other sweatshirts from the same line were advertised on white models.
Social media users on Twitter soon began accusing the brand of racism, and even profiting from any resulting online backlash this incident may cause. One woman, who said she had worked for H&M, claimed the Sweden-based retailer is sometimes “clueless” to issues of “racism, cultural & social challenges.”
Other users took further issue with H&M using a white child to model a hoodie from the same line — featuring text reading “survival expert” and “junior tour guide” — and alleging that it was a deliberate move to pair those children in with their sweaters.
However, a couple of commenters defended the brand. One believed that people who were outraged by the hoodie were “looking to be offended,” while another alleged that those same people were reading something into the sweatshirt’s message that H&M didn’t intend.
Many others also called for a boycott of H&M entirely, and R&B artist The Weeknd — who partnered with the retailer on a line of apparel — announced he would no longer be working with the company via a tweet he posted on Monday afternoon.
H&M has since removed the offending image from its website, although the sweater, which retails for 7.99 pounds, is still available for purchase on its U.K site.
The outrage over H&M’s advertisement follows several similar incidents involving major brands in recent months. In early October, Dove apologized for “missing the mark” with a Facebook ad for body wash, which showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman underneath. And later that month, Nivea was accused of racism after promoting a skin cream for “visibly fairer skin” in several African countries.