When H&M came to SA and insulted everyone


International retail giant H&M set up shop in SA recently, with one store opened in Cape Town last month and one in Johannesburg just yesterday. But it’s already alienated a lot of potential customers thanks to a mind-boggling exchange on Twitter.

When fashion blogger Tlalane Letlhaku commented on Twitter saying that “most, if not all your posters in store have no black models” and to “please work on that to appeal to everyone,” the response was “H&M’s marketing has a major impact and it is essential for us to convey a positive image”.

Granted, this was the first part of a a multi-part response but what followed wasn’t exactly reassuring either.

People were not pleased, because frankly WTF?

H&M eventually responded to the criticism – this time in a six-part tweet – saying that it is “a global brand working across all continents within the Northern and Southern Hemisphere,” that “fashion is global and so are our marketing campaigns” and that it has “worked with many models from various ethnic backgrounds in our campaigns” before listing models of various ethnicities who it has worked with. This has to be the fashion equivalent of “but some of my best friends are black”. We already know that the fashion industry has some serious problems when it comes to hiring black models, and it’s high time more brands owned up to that fact and committed to doing something about it – particularly those operating in Africa. The bottom line is this: When someone says that perhaps, when doing business in Africa, one should consider using more black models, the appropriate response is “Yes, you’re right.”     UPDATE:  H&M has issued another clarification of its tweets, apologising as well for any offence caused. 


Featured image via BrokenSphere on Wikimedia Commons


  1. If your idea of a problem is “this shop needs more posters of other people” then please can we swap problems?

    I would much rather deal with that issue than my crippling debt and dying child in hospital.

    • ASDF, if your child is dying, shouldn’t you be at their bedside instead of commenting on something that is in no way linked to your personal problems. This is a topic about fashion and correct marketing manners when you are doing business in someone else’s house. I’m sure we are all sorry about your personal situation, but just because your child is dying does not mean that we should all go naked or stop spending our hard-earned money.

      • See my comment below.

        I also fail to see how their marketing prevents you from spending your hard-earned money on the things you want. Stop being shallow about such petty things.

        • And you stop being such crying ass bitch about your personal finances and fake dying child just so you can get sympathy from strangers online.

  2. Your worries as South African consumers should extend beyond model representation.. so they would use Bonang or Trevor Stuurman to influence your purchasing – then you have a new problem… H&M will shut down MR.Price and Edgar…and ….you as citizens and industry must demand that H&M produce a minimum % in South Africa and a % stock should be local designers

    • Dinana i share your sentiments. We should also worry about the bigger picture not just model rep[presentation, while that is important, how about designer representation and share options we should explore. Surely new business is great for our country, but we cannot just shop, we need to actively engage these businesses, to either partner with them etc.

      My 2 Cents

    • Why concern about Mr Price? They have also been the cause of local job losses. They are also importing cheap chinese made fashion and damaging our more local big brands like Edgar’s & Truworths & Woolworths (who also produce more & more in China to try remain competitive)! Support small design brands who create jobs. Demand from our local retailers to produce locally. Check labels. Buy the “made in SA” styles. Buy Local, Create Jobs. http://www.lovezabuyza.co.za. Watch The True Cost movie.

  3. Moral of the story: H&M shouldn’t respond to politics and should stick to fashion and blacks shouldn’t be so negative and should stop pulling out the race card, all the time. Going to end up like the boy who cried wolf. A time will come when no one will care about you darkies.

    • Such a time will never come. These issues are important for everyone. This isn’t pulling the race card, this is stating a fact. You have no idea what it’s like, and neither do I. How about if you have nothing positive to say, you shut you racist face.

      • Oh my. And where is that fashion blogger now to see what she has started? Seems like some black people are very negative after all. H&M wants portray an image of international fashion. Maybe they’re not trying to identify with black culture or Africa- which has associations with struggle, politics, hip hop culture. Believe it or not, people will choose the brand based on other associations with it. This fashion blogger is clueless about the world and the economy because there are deeper more far reaching issues here, like not supporting local production and foreign investment. Will she be happy and drop the issue just because she sees black people in the ads? Then it’s ok to be lied to and hurt our economy. She’s stupid.

    • if you’re so sick of people “playing the race card” after being oppressed for their race in a way that continues to viscerally affect them every day, why don’t you fuck off to Europe or Australia where you can continue to be your racist-ass self. You don’t deserve to call yourself South African and you make me ashamed to be white.

  4. In the picture, the mannequins in the window appear to be black in colour. As South Africa is dubbed the ‘Rainbow Nation’, H&M should use a variety of colours for their mannequins, which do not look like real people anyway. But, seriously, I think there are far bigger problems in South Africa than the colour of a clothing stores mannequins and models!

  5. In the picture, the mannequins in the window appear to be black in colour. As South Africa is dubbed the ‘Rainbow Nation’, H&M should use a variety of colours for their mannequins, which do not look like real people anyway. But, seriously, I think there are far bigger problems in South Africa than the colour of a clothing store’s mannequins and models!

  6. Honestly this makes me want to shop there… i dont ask for indian girl with scarf to be on their posters to get some sort of validation for shopping there. And this isnt a black country. It belongs to whites, indians and asians too. Honestly think its racist to ask for black people on the posters as if the colour of skin has anything to do with the clothes.

  7. H&M don’t have to change their global campaigns, focus or strategy because of your entitled, self-absorbed perceptions. This is not about race or insult. Offensive is taken, not given. Get real and get over yourself. They will customize their approach if they feel it necessary. Until then, why don’t you work your way up in Marketing, find your way into a global brand like H&M and get onto the list of their global decision makers. Then check if you’d still post something this ignorant.

  8. We should be grateful an international company is investing in this country and giving locals jobs. How often the locals attack those that are keeping this country afloat. Stupidity is SA’s biggest problem.

    • Sam, be careful. The jobs you see in the few tellers and floor staff & cleaners are minor in comparison to the jobs they will destroy by closing local factories and small designers who simply cannot compete with the pricing power of a chinese manufacturing giant. We will lose many many more job than they create. Buy local. Create jobs! http://Www.lovezabuyza.co.za

      • People buy at the best price. If you can’t match that price, you are too uncompetitive to survive in business. YOU need to change, not your customers.

  9. Why is a fashion blogger more interested in the racial representation in a store than the fashion in the store? Are the white people in the posters that unappealing? Just because you are not represented you cause a social media war through your comment that has nothing to do with what you blog about? Not everything has to be about race. How can you say that white people in posters means you dont appeal to everyone? That means they need all races of models plus disable people plus gays and lesbians and transgenders. GET OVER THIS RACE ISSUE. That means the people constantly worried about it and the idiots that purport racism.

  10. Black South Africans are seemingly the first order racists here WHY even point this out? . This is a global fashion BRAND. Not a homecooked african one.

    Get over it, and yourselves. Stop calling out the race card at every pathetic chance you get. Painful.

    • Oh hush! You know their response was racist. Nobody would even care if they had said that white people are their target market and they want their clothes to appeal to them because it all truth I doubt I’ll ever step my black foot in that store. However, to say that they dont have black models because their aim to is portray a ”positive image” is racist and you’re also racist because instead of acknowledging this u just went to jump on the ”Black South Africans love bringing up the race card” band wagon. Nobody said it was an ”African homecooked brand” bhuti and if they’d said that then kudos to them, but to say they dont wanna include Africans when 80% of the S.A population is made up of black people is because they do not portray a positive image? Awunyi perhaps?

  11. Someone needs to explain to H&M what at Tweet is. If you can’t express yourself in 140 characters, you should keep your mouth shut!


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