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