H&M's collection, which featured a photograph of a black boy wearing a hoodie with the text "coolest monkey in the jungle," drew massive criticism in social media after going viral following an outraged tweet by blogger Stephanie Yeboah.
New York Times and CNN contributor Charles Blow went so far as to tweet "have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!"
Models for Diversity, a UK-based organization campaigning for a more inclusive fashion industry, was one of many groups questioning how the fashion faux pas hadn't struck anyone responsible for rolling out the collection as inappropriate.
Four-time MVP-winning NBA basketball star LeBron James was among those who saw H&M's gaffe and cried foul; he posted a photoshopped image of the boy model in protest of racism.
"U got us all wrong! And we ain't going for it! Straight up! Enough about y'all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied!" the Cleveland Cavaliers' star player wrote.
@hm u got us all wrong! And we ain't going for it! Straight up! Enough about y'all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied! We as African Americans will always have to break barriers, prove people wrong and work even harder to prove we belong but guess what, that's what we love because the benefits at the end of the road are so beautiful!! #LiveLaughLove❤️ #LoveMyPeople🤴🏾👸🏾👨🏾⚖️👩🏾⚖️
Many customers threatened to boycott the Stockholm-based company. Among others, musician The Weeknd pledged to cut ties with the Swedish company.
"I'm deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…" The Weeknd wrote.
Following the uproar, the contentious hoodie was removed from H&M's Swedish web shop. The shirt was still available for purchase on the British side, but the picture of the boy was removed. H&M also apologized for what many said was an insensitive association between the young model and a hateful slur against black people.
This is not the first time H&M has been accused of racism. In 2015, the company was blasted for lack of diversity in their campaign, yet defended its choice of predominantly white models by claiming it wanted to convey a positive image.
H&M regrets the response to a social media message that was recently aired and wishes to clarify the intention. pic.twitter.com/IybEBotudU— hmsouthafrica (@hmsouthafrica) November 5, 2015
This isn't the first time a major fashion label has been associated with racism. In the 2000s, the British clothing firm Lonsdale became popular among skinheads because its clothing featured the letters 'NSDA': for white supremacists, this was code for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party), which is more known as the Nazi Party.
Rather than nurturing this nefarious niche market, Lonsdale chose to sponsor gay pride and multi-cultural events, as well as a football club for Africans in Germany under the slogan "Lonsdale loves all colors," The Telegraph wrote.