What happened to H&M in Africa? | H&M Racism Accusations in Africa

Mahenoor Mansuri Mahenoor Mansuri
Sep 6, 2021 6 min read
What happened to H&M in Africa? | H&M Racism Accusations in Africa

The World is constantly changing and evolving. Every moment transforming, new ideas take birth are implemented. Trends dominate today's world and go fast as they come. In a moment everyone is involved and in the other everybody has already forgotten about it and is catching up with another.

What is fast fashion?
Problem with H&M and Fast fashion
What happened to H&M in Africa?
Other fast fashion brands and H&M and the need to do better
FAQ

What is Fast Fashion?

In the fashion industry, as the word suggests, fast, quick, and trendy clothes are made for the consumers that are made and distributed rapidly among its consumers.

The brands involved in the fast fashion industry:

  • Get the latest styles that are trendy into their stores.
  • The clothes are usually sold at a low price using cheap labor.
  • They produce these clothes in huge quantities and the consumers buy them recklessly. Because everyone is wearing it and it works.
  • Fast fashion is a threat to the environment, gives rise to social problems, and majorly contributes to climate change.
  • It heavily influences many aspects and brings about negative changes.

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Problem with H&M and Fast Fashion

Climate change is real and it is happening. No matter how long the World leaders may deny it and entrepreneurs may go on with the sole aim of making money. Using, exploiting, polluting the resources as well as ignoring what they are doing to the planet.

Wastage of Water

Not to mention the gallons and gallons of water that go into the making of the clothes. That also involves generating 20% of the wastewater. Plus dumping microplastics into our oceans, which is half a billion tons of it.

The growing culture of exploiting laborers

How are these companies able to manufacture their clothes so quickly? There has to be someone involved, and yes, here come the laborers. Brands involved in the fast-growing fashion industry exploit their workers. They are exploiting their basic human rights.

Making them work for insane work hours with only little pay. These laborers also include children from developing countries. The labor policies are not ethical with gender inequality, forced labor, and freedom of association. This issue has been brought up constantly, by many activists and other personalities and this inhumane practice must be put to an end.

A report issued in 2016 by Human rights group Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) also reported cases of sexual harassment and low wages.

Sustainable Fashion and the Conscious Collection

People are looking for clothes that are more sustainable, recycled, or been. Thrift shops are a new option available in the market. Thrifting is becoming a thing now. Consumers are more aware now and prefer clothes made in an eco-friendly way. Even though the Swedish brand has come up with its "The Conscious Collection" H&M has been criticized by many regarding what it deems is sustainable.

Hasan Minhaj on Fast fashion

The famous show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which creates awareness about the issues that are important in a fun way, all the while educating us about how we can make a difference for good, is a Netflix show. The problem of the fast fashion industry is as real as it gets. The extent of it is such that Hasan Minhaj had to go to an episode of thirty minutes; the Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion.

He smartly covers every aspect of the fast fashion industry and how it is changing the business model in his unique comedy series in 2019. The episode is a must-watch as it brings out the flip side of fast fashion.


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What happened to H&M in Africa?

Back to 2015

Featuring lesser Black models in their advertisements was observed by the people, accusing H&M Africa of racism. The brand tweeted, saying that marketing their campaigns, they wanted to convey their image positively.

And show fashion in the light of inspiring way conveying the feeling of positivity since their marketing campaigns have a huge impact.

Taking that, they communicated that the "white models" portray a "positive image" for the brand. It faced more backlash from the people. Another tweet came saying:

"We have worked with many models from various ethnic backgrounds in our campaigns."

Cultural appropriation? Not for the first time!

Belonging to the H&M Loves music summer collection, which was a limited edition, a faux leather headdress was called out by the Native Americans.

H&M Headdress
H&M Headdress

The line was designed to include clothing and accessories for music festivals and similar events. The headdress was later removed from the US and the Canadian stores.

Racist Advertisements and Culture appropriation

H&M closed all its stores in South Africa after the protestors from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) organized mass protests and thrashed the stores over the racist ad in 2018. The ad revolved around a Black child model with a green hoodie, reading the text "Coolest monkey in the jungle" As you are aware, calling someone monkey is used as a slur.

People on social media called out H&M for its racist ad. The image was later taken down from their website. Some of the celebrities that had signed contracts with H&M said that they would no longer be working with the brand. Some expressed shock.

LeBron James on its Instagram expressed his opinion on H&M's ad
LeBron James on its Instagram expressed his opinion on H&M's ad

H&Ms decision to close their stores in South Africa came after a drop in their quarterly sales in a decade.


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Other fast fashion brands and H&M and the need to do better

These fast-fashion brands in the industry need to draw a clear line between making a profit and working with ethics. The business model of the fast-fashion industry is only leading to more problems.

The ad campaigns and the ads have to be designed by doing their research work. Keeping in mind the sentiments of the people as they have a huge impact. These brands need to draw a line on innovation and cultural appropriation.

FAQ

What is fast fashion?

In the fast fashion industry fast, quick, and trendy clothes are made for the consumers that are made and distributed rapidly among its consumers.

What are some of the fast fashion brands?

Zara, H&M Group, UNIQLO, GAP, and Forever 21 are some of the top fast fashion brands.

What are the disadvantages of fast fashion?

The disadvantages of fast fashion are, not paying fair living wages to workers, poor working conditions, child labor, environmental destruction and increasing amounts of water pollution.

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