“Shocked and embarrassed” is how Abel Tesfaye — better known as Grammy award-winning artist The Weeknd — says he felt upon seeing a controversial product shot from H&M, with whom Tesfaye has collaborated on a number of projects. The photo in question depicts a black child model wearing a hoodie bearing the phrase “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle,” which has since been removed from the retailer’s website. In a tweet addressing the picture, Tesfaye says he will no longer work with the company.
woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…
Backlash against the image began on social media Sunday night. Twitter user @AFoucard called for a boycott of the retailer, writing “What universe do you live in that makes it okay to flaunt your racist ways in such an epic portion.” The musician Questlove posted a screenshot of the image to his 1.1M Instagram followers earlier this morning calling out not only the photo itself but the predictable handling of these incidents by big brands:
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?
As expected, H&M did take the product off of its site, and offered an apology:
We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.
Tesfaye has previously designed two collections with H&M, and performed at its Paris Fashion Week show in March of last year. While Tesfaye now also works with Puma, H&M was his first major fashion contract.