January 17, 2018 3:02 pm

H&M appoints diversity leader after outcry over racially insensitive photo

An undated photo of an advert for a hoodie by H&M. Clothing giant H&M has apologized Monday, Jan. 8, 2017, and removed an advertising image of a black model in a sweatshirt with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle.’’ The brand removed the image, but kept in place other designs modeled by white children.

H&M via AP
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Swedish fashion retailer H&M says it has appointed a diversity leader following the outcry over its ad that showed a black child dressed in a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle.”

READ MORE: Protesters trash 6 H&M stores in South Africa after child’s sweater ad seen as racist

H&M first announced the appointment Tuesday on its Facebook page. In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the retailer said Global Manager for Employee Relations Annie Wu, a company veteran, would be the new global leader for diversity and inclusiveness.

The retailer said on Facebook that its “commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine, therefore we have appointed a global leader, in this area, to drive our work forward.”

WATCH: H&M stores in South Africa trashed


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The image of the boy modeling the sweatshirt appeared online earlier this month and prompted accusations that H&M was racist, or at least oblivious.

The Stockholm-based company reiterated in its Facebook announcement that “the recent incident was entirely unintentional” but “demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand.”

READ MORE: The Weeknd cuts ties with H&M, says he’s ‘deeply offended’ by photo

NBA star LeBron James and rapper Diddy were among those who had responded with outrage to the ad. American rappers The Weeknd and G-Eazy cancelled partnerships with H&M. In South Africa, there were protests at some H&M stores. The response has been more muted in Europe.

The case highlights how important it has become for multinationals to consider the different cultural views and sensitivities in their sales markets. That’s especially true as social media makes it possible for an ad posted in one country to be shared and viewed around the world.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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