PARIS — Hennes & Mauritz AB has temporarily shuttered its stores in South Africa after protesters ransacked several locations in the wake of the hoodie controversy.
“What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers,” said the company. “We have temporarily closed our stores in South Africa. None of our staff or customers have been injured. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as the situation is safe again.
“We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable,” continued H&M. “We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”
The Swedish fast-fashion giant has been at the center of controversy over the past week. Last weekend, social media users started sharing a picture from the store’s web site that showed a young black child modeling a green hoodie that read “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
Twitter was quick to dub H&M “racist” for its styling choice, prompting the retailer to respond by apologizing for the photo and pulling the hoodie from its product offering. The company said the garment will be recycled.
Yet high-profile artists have cut ties with the brand in subsequent days. The Weeknd, for instance, said he would stop working with H&M less than a year after their partnership was announced, and rapper G-Eazy canceled his upcoming collection.
In an article titled “H&M Issues Unequivocal Apology for Poorly Judged Product and Image” posted on its web site Tuesday night, the retailer apologized once more for selling the hoodie.