Swedish fashion chain H&M has temporarily closed its stores in South Africa, following protests in that country on Saturday against a sweatshirt labelled as racist. The ad for the sweatshirt, which they sold on their website until January 6, before withdrawing once the controversy erupted, featured a black child wearing the garment which has the words “the coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it.
H&M said in a statement that is it is “aware of the recent events that occurred within several of our stores in South Africa,” and has “temporarily closed” all of 17 stores in the country.” None of our staff or clients have been injured. We continue to monitor the situation closely and we will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again,” the company said on its website.
On Saturday, protests were reported in six H&M stores in Johannesburg and Gauteng provinces. Video footage showed angry protesters wrecking mannequins and throwing clothes around in several of its stores.
“We agree with all the criticism that this has generated,” the company said in an apology it posted on its website last week. “We have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists… as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities – and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time.”
The fashion chain has also faced a backlash from celebrities with whom it has sponsorship deals. The Canadian artist Abel Tesfaye, from the music group The Weeknd, decided to break his collaboration with the Swedish company in protest at the advertisement. Basketball player Lebron James and music mogul P. Diddy have also spoke out against the ad.