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Swedish company H&M got in big trouble for an advertisement featuring a black child modelling a sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle”. Photo: AP

H&M ad not the only fashion campaign to court controversy – five other brands that blundered

Swedish fast-fashion giant, in hot water over ‘coolest monkey’ ad, isn’t alone in dropping the ball in an advertising campaign – just ask Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana, Evisu, Yves Saint Laurent and serial offender Victoria’s Secret


This week Swedish fashion giant H&M came under fire for an advertisement featuring a black child modelling a sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” (the ad has been removed from all its marketing).

Celebrities joined the public outcry, none louder than Canadian singer The Weeknd, who collaborated with H&M on two collections in 2017.

H&M slammed for racist ‘monkey in the jungle’ hoodie

“woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm any more …,” The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, tweeted. US rap star Diddy and basketball star LeBron James also spoke out.

The incident was a reminder of other controversial fashion advertising campaigns.

The Jimmy Choo advertisement featuring British model Cara Delevingne was accused of sexism.


Just last month Jimmy Choo was accused of sexism for its advert featuring British model Cara Delevingne. The two-minute ad shows Delevingne strutting down a New York street wearing a sparkly red minidress and Choo sock boots, getting catcalls from men along the way.

Social media went into a frenzy, labelling both the brand and Delevingne “tone deaf” in light of the global #MeToo movement addressing sexual harassment.

One of a series of images taken in Beijing by the Morelli Brothers for Dolce & Gabbana. Photo: Dolce & Gabbana


The Italian brand was accused of suggesting gang rape and had an ad banned from its spring/summer 2007 ready-to-wear collection. The image showed Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio pinned down by a man while surrounded by a group of male onlookers. The design duo came under fire closer to home for photographs shot in Beijing, showing models mingling with locals at city landmarks.

The series, taken by the Morelli Brothers, who also shot the Hong Kong and Japan collections in a similar style for the label, was part of the brand’s “Dolce & Gabbana Loves China” online marketing campaign. But not everyone loved it. Internet users bombarded the brand’s Weibo account with complaints that the images showed only underdeveloped parts of the city and impoverished residents.

Evisu was accused of objectifying women and promoting “rape culture” in campaign posters.


In Hong Kong in 2016, Japanese firm Evisu was accused of objectifying women and promoting “rape culture” in campaign posters for the brand’s autumn-winter collection. The posters showed models Shaun Ross and Camilla Christensen in controversial poses, with one showing Christensen wearing full-body nude tights and a lifeless expression, carried upside down by Ross.

It didn’t help that the ads were shot by controversial US photographer Terry Richardson, who has been accused by some models of sexual harassment.

British model Sophie Dahl wearing only a pair of gold sandals in an Yves Saint Laurent ad.


US designer Tom Ford, as creative director of the French fashion house, found himself in hot water for a 2000 Opium fragrance ad campaign. Shot by American Steven Meisel, the ad showed British model Sophie Dahl wearing only a pair of gold sandals – and some matching jewellery – posing in a provocative manner.

The image was removed from billboards worldwide and at the time was the most complained about fashion image in history.

In 2012 model Karlie Kloss wore a Native American headdress in a Victoria’s Secret show. Photo: AP


The American lingerie giant has been accused of racism and cultural appropriation on numerous occasions during its annual fashion shows. In 2012 model Karlie Kloss was slammed for wearing a Native American headdress down the catwalk (in the same year the show was heavily criticised for sending two black models down the catwalk in tribal gear). The brand apologised.

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But it seems lessons were not learned. In 2016, the show was slammed for its appropriation of Chinese and Mexican traditional attire, and last year in Shanghai the brand sent models down the catwalk in Native American headdresses and accessories; some observers claimed to have spotted necklaces worn by Kenya’s Maasai tribe.