Almost a year after premiering his first fashion collection with H&M, The Weeknd is cutting ties with the brand. The singer announced his decision in a Twitter message on Monday, January 8th. In the tweet, he cites an image of an offensive item image on H&M’s website. The photo shows an African American boy wearing a hoodie that reads “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”
“Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo,” The Weeknd tweeted. “I’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore.”
As explained by CTV News Montreal, the term “monkey” has a long history of being used as a racial slur against black people. The outlet shared a statement from the Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, who explained that the ad “reinforces racist stereotypes and constitutes a form of racial slur against black people.”
In addition to The Weeknd, several other celebrities expressed anger over the garment, including Questlove, LeBron James, Diddy, and YG.
Many others also tweeted their outrage, explaining why they found the ad offensive.
Others specifically praised The Weeknd’s decision.
H&M issued a response to the controversial sweatshirt, apologizing and announcing that the item and accompanying photo has been removed from the website.
This latest episode in tone-deaf branding reminds us why it’s critical that companies hire diverse staff — because words and symbols matter, and this type of offensive marketing should not be slipping through the cracks.