H&M stores across South Africa were shut on Saturday 13 January, due to protesters swarming several stores.
The protesters were reacting to a recent H&M campaign, which featured a black child wearing a green jumper with the slogan ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’. Two white children also featured in the jungle-themed ad, with sweatshirts that did not mention monkeys, but other slogans like ‘survival expert’. Social media was rife with thousands of complaints in relation to ad, which many saw as racist.
Posted on social media, the ad triggered a huge backlash worldwide and has since been deleted. As a result, former H&M collaborators and musicians, such as The Weeknd and G-Eazy have cut all ties with the Swedish retailer, branding the campaign “disturbing” and “racially and culturally insensitive”.
Videos and photos uploaded on social media showed overturned rails of clothing, smashed mirrors and mannequins strewn across the floor in the South African stores targeted by the protestors. H&M publicly apologised for the controversial campaign, posting the apology to its Instagram site.
However, the apology did not stop the outrage. H&M additionally responded to angry protesters in a statement to The New York Times. “Out of concern for the safety of our employees and customers we have temporarily closed all stores in the area,” the statement said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again…”
Social media was flooded with people stating the riots were counter-productive and adding fuel to the fire.
Mother of the child in the ad, Terry Mango, said in a Facebook post that the backlash was an “unnecessary issue,” adding that “this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modelled.”