H&M apol­o­gises af­ter Twit­ter furore about colour of mod­els used in launch

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - RABBIE SERUMULA

GLOBAL cloth­ing gi­ant H&M, which opened in Cape Town last month to much fan­fare, has apol­o­gised to cus­tomers for a tweet viewed as of­fen­sive, af­ter com­plaints its launch cam­paign in­cluded pre­dom­i­nantly white mod­els.

The furore arose over the out­let’s re­sponse to this tweet to H&M South Africa from a shop­per, which read: “I was at your CT store. Most, if not all your posters in store have no black mod­els.

“Please work on that to ap­peal to ev­ery­one.”

The re­sponse by H& M, Europe’s sec­ond-big­gest cloth­ing re­tailer of­fended some Twit­ter users.

In a se­ries of tweets, @ HM­SouthAfrica said: “H&M’s mar­ket­ing has a ma­jor im­pact and it is es­sen­tial for us to con­vey a pos­i­tive im­age.”

That was fol­lowed by: “We want our mar­ket­ing to show our fash­ion in an in­spir­ing way, to con­vey a pos­i­tive feel­ing.”

H&M con­tin­ued: “We work with a wide range of mod­els and per­son­al­i­ties through­out all our mar­ket­ing, both on­line, out­door and in store.”

Then fol­lowed the first set of apolo­gies: “Our mar­ket­ing, pol­icy, cam­paign pro­duc­tions and work is some­thing we con­stantly dis­cuss in­ter­nally and with cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als.”

What the Swedish brand posted on Twit­ter and what was per­ceived were two dif­fer­ent things.

Fol­low­ers started ask­ing ques­tions such as: “So what you’re say­ing is that black peo­ple do not con­vey this ‘pos­i­tive im­age’ you are try­ing to por­tray?”

This was fol­lowed by more tweets from @HMSouth Africa, which did not ap­pear to ap­pease the com­plainants.

On Thurs­day, af­ter a con­tin- ued back­lash, the re­tailer, which opened a shop in Sand­ton this week, tweeted: “H&M re­grets the re­sponse to a so­cial me­dia mes­sage that was re­cently aired, and wishes to clar­ify the in­ten­tion.”

Amelia Woud­stra, H& M’s spokes­woman, said yes­ter­day that the re­tailer apol­o­gised if their tweet had caused of­fence, as it was not its in­ten­tion.

“In no way does H&M state that pos­i­tiv­ity is linked to an eth­nic group. H&M is proudly a global brand that em­braces all peo­ple who are in­spired by fash­ion, re­gard­less of eth­nic back­ground, gen­der or cul­ture.”

Jacques Holtzhausen, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Model Agen­cies, said he did not sup­port how H& M was lam­basted on Twit­ter.

“We should give H& M a break be­cause they are used to Euro­pean mar­kets,” he said. “They prob­a­bly used the same cam­paign world­wide, we can’t ex­pect them to re-shoot.

“When Gucci and Louis Vuit­ton launched their stores in Sand­ton with­out any black mod­els in their cam­paigns, we didn’t com­plain.”

Holtzhausen added that he did not how­ever, ap­prove of how the re­tailer re­sponded on Twit­ter.

“We can start judg­ing them with their sec­ond cam­paign.

“I am sure if this one does not reach the tar­get mar­kets, they would go back to the draw­ing board and shoot a dif­fer­ent one.”

Minka Steytler, spokes­woman for the South African In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions, said the Swedish out­let needed to un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of South Africa.

“The un­der­ly­ing fac­tor here is that H&M needs to get up to speed with the cul­ture of our coun­try, ” she said.

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