Racism in the Fashion Industry: H&M

The new year started off with a rude awakening for H&M. News of H&M’s controversial image of a black boy wearing a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” has spread like rapid wildfire over social media platforms. (Editor’s Note: We have chosen not to include the image in this post due to its offensive content.) People took to Twitter in outrage over the racist implications of such an image. H&M has since removed the image and issued an apology, however not before facing backlash. An H&M in South Africa has been vandalized and artists such as The Weeknd and G-Eazy have pulled out of affiliations with the brand.

For those who think that the advertisement was harmless: black people have historically been compared to monkeys as a means of dehumanization. This is something stemming from centuries of oppression — a monkey is not a harmless term in context of this situation. It is an extremely offensive term and for H&M to advertise the hoodie on a black boy shows ignorance. A company as large as H&M should have their advertisements quality assured and quality controlled to meet the standard of their diverse demographic. As a global brand, H&M should be more culturally sensitive in their advertisement campaigns in order to avoid racial and cultural faux pas.

In today’s current social climate, it is easy for people to think that outrage like this is an overreaction. However, the fashion industry today still displays racism in multiple aspects. The majority of high fashion designers are white, the majority of models (high fashion or not) are white, and the majority of clothes by high fashion brands are made for white people. Tommy Hilfiger himself has stated that he made his clothes only for the white upper class. This is nothing new. This has been ingrained in the fashion industry just as it has been ingrained in society. So while some may think the H&M ad is not a big deal, I beg to differ. In an industry where racism has been prevalent, ads like H&M’s must be discussed if we want anything to change.

I hope that fellow Bruins can understand the importance of underrepresentation and racism in the fashion industry, and I encourage you all to speak out on your own experiences.

Sonam Beckham
FAST Blogger

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