Courting controversy: from H&M’s ‘coolest monkey’ to Gucci’s blackface jumper

The Guardian - Feb 08, 06:00 GMT

Last year, the Swedish brand’s “casual racism” led to the appointment of a diversity division

Last year, the Swedish brand’s “casual racism” led to the appointment of a diversity division. But can brands really learn from their mistakes?

It’s been just over a year since H&M apologised for an advertising image featuring a black boy modelling a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. The Swedish brand issued the following statement at the time: “We have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.” Shortly after, the company appointed its first ever global leader for diversity and inclusiveness, Annie Wu.

At the time of the scandal, Wu was H&M’s global manager for employee relations.Born in Taiwan and raised in New York, how did she feel about the Coolest Monkey hoodie? “I think for all of us it was more shock, like everyone else: how could that happen? But then also, how do we then tell the world that this is not who we are, and that it was completely a mistake?”

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