The online images of a black child in a “monkey” hoodie provoked anger on social media. The international fashion chain has apologised after its website featured a black child model wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie.
Criticism online ranged from outcries of “inappropriate”, “disgusting” and “negligent”.
The clothing item for children available at the store’s United Kingdom page as a “printed hooded top”, was noticed on Sunday by inter alia blogger Stephanie Yeboah, whose outraged screen capture of the offering went viral.
H&M has since removed the green monkey sweater from its website, while two white children featuring designs in the same category, remain.
One wears a shirt with the words: “Mangrove jungle” or “Official survival expert”, while the other features designs of giraffes and tigers.
British Labour MP Kate Osamor tweeted: “I was totally shocked, dismayed to say the very least to find this online imagine. @hm do you think this imagery is an appropriate representation of a young black boy?”
The Weeknd, a Canadian popstar who has produced menswear collections with the chain, said he was cutting ties with the company.
Another Twitter user complained: “So the black kid gets to wear the H&M sweater with ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’ and the white kid with ‘Survival expert’. This is beyond disgusting. It’s a projection of your neocolonial thinking.”
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow asked: “Have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!”
Lebron James an American professional basketball player, similarly called out the image.
“U got us all wrong! And we ain’t going for it! Straight up! Enough about y’all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied!” he wrote on Instagram.
“We as African Americans will always have to break barriers, prove people wrong and work even harder to prove we belong but guess what, that’s what we love because the benefits at the end of the road are so beautiful!!”
A spokeswoman for the retailer said: “This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologise to anyone this may have offended.”
But it was actually an African American director, Spike Lee, who popularised the notion of blacks-from-the-jungle in his film “Jungle Fever”, a story about interracial dating, in 1991.
In Calais, France, a now-demolished infamous migrant camp had been named the “Jungle” because it housed non-Europeans, but no-one complained about racism at the time.