In 2017, Toronto based artist The Weeknd became the latest ambassador for Swedish clothing retailer H&M. The partnership has proven to be short lived, with The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, announcing on Monday that he was severing ties with the company after they posted a racially offensive ad.
On Sunday night, a new ad by H&M showing a young black boy wearing hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” began surfacing online. By Monday morning, the ad had reached The Weeknd, who tweeted that he was “shocked and embarrassed” by the photo and “deeply offended.” The Weeknd announced in the same tweet that he would no longer be working with the clothing giant.
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018
The sweater has been pulled from shelves in the UK and H&M has issued a lengthy apology, promising the product will not be sold in North America. A spokesperson for the brand spoke with USA Today, saying “The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
The Weeknd isn’t the only celebrity to voice his concern over the ad (which is deeply insensitive to how the word “monkey” has been used to demean black people throughout history) on social media. The Roots drummer Questlove, NBA player LeBron James, rap mogul Diddy and more spoke out against the ad.
I’m sure the apologies are a coming. And the ads will be pulled. I’m certain there will Be media fixers and whatnot and maybe a grand gesture like a donation to some charity (donations under these circumstances are the corporate version #SomeOfMyBestFriendsAre move if there ever was one) all this tells me about @HM is that the seats in the boardroom lack something…wanna take a guess?
The Canadian artist has yet to scrub his social media of past mentions of H&M, including a video that debuted his fall collection back in September 2017, but we’re sure they’ll be removed soon. Whether the controversy surrounding the new ad affects sales at H&M has yet to be seen, but with The Weeknd’s public denouncement of the company, the brand is sure to take a sizable hit with its young audience.