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H&M South Africa Under Fire for Offensive Tweets Addressing Lack of Diversity in Ads

There’s still a startling lack of diversity in fashion advertising and we’re getting more insight into why that problem persists. According to our latest diversity report, out of 460 fashion print ads this season, 84.7% of models cast were white and only 4.4% were black. A recent Perry Ellis lawsuit alleged that the brand’s president explicitly demanded “no blacks in my ads.” H&M South Africa seems to agree with that sentiment.

The brand came under fire recently for only featuring white models in its global marketing campaign, and their response was shocking.

When Tlalane Letlhaku tweeted H&M South Africa asking them to include more black models in ads, they answered: “H&M’s marketing has a major impact and it is essential for us to convey a positive image. We want our marketing to show our fashion in an inspiring way, to convey a positive feeling.”

The insinuation here is that you can only inspire or convey positivity if you have white skin. It perpetuates the damning stereotypes people of color have endured for centuries, that somehow their skin color alone makes them inferior and inherently bad.

H&M rushed to do damage control, releasing the following statement: “H&M regrets the response to a social media message that was recently aired on Twitter and wishes to clarify the intention of the message. 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. We wish to [apologize] if our message has caused [offense] in any way as this was not the intention.”

If they’re truly regretful, they’ll make a commitment to include models of various races that more accurately reflects the South African population they now serve.

[via Huffington Post]