‘N- Lab Beanie’ – H&M apologizes after hat uploaded for review was labeled with the N-word

Francis Akhalbey August 10, 2020
H&M apologized after a hat that was labeled with a racial slur was uploaded on the system of subsidiary company, & Other Stories -- Photo via Wiki Commons

Clothing retail giant, H&M Group, has rendered an apology to its employees and the public after an internal photo of a hat that was labeled “N***a Lab Beanie” was uploaded onto the internal systems of its subsidiary clothing company, & Other Stories.

The image, which was subsequently removed from the company’s server, provoked the ire of the retail giant’s employees who questioned how it was able to pass through several people without raising an eyebrow. The team and managers responsible have been suspended as investigations continue. The hat in question has also been removed.

“We are deeply sorry about the word connected to an image of a product that was sent out to our stores during July,” & Other Stories Managing Director Karolina Gutke wrote in a July 21 memo to employees that was obtained by CNN. “This is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse to why this happened.”

The company also sent the news outlet a statement in regards to the incident, saying it “recently discovered that one of our internal documents included a reference to a product using a racial slur, for this we are deeply sorry.”

“We take the use of racially inappropriate language extremely seriously. Although the word was never printed on an actual product, the use of the word was completely unacceptable and is inexcusable.”

According to H&M group, the product and label appeared in a July list of clothing and accessories that were set to hit their shelves for the Fall/Winter season. The products were uploaded in an internal system and listed under names that were created by the design and buying teams, CNN reports, adding that employees said the captions hit the server pending approval from several managers. The retail giant said the incident happened in the Paris atelier of & Other Stories.

Though & Other Stories could not explain how the racial slur was uploaded on the company server, it said it has “clear policies and procedures to prevent the use of racially inappropriate and insensitive” material. H&M Group has global non-discrimination as well as inclusion and diversity policies that abhor the use of racial slurs.

“Clearly these were not followed, and we are currently investigating why. We will take the strongest possible action – to ensure that racially divisive language or images are not used again,” the statement to CNN said. Chief Diversity Officer, Annie Wu, also added she wants the suspended employees eventually fired.

“Personally, I am super angry and ashamed that something like this could even happen,” said Wu. “I would want to see them terminated, because there’s no excuse for it.”

In 2018, the company stoked the anger of people after its website displayed a black boy modelling a hoodie with the inscription “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” for its UK stores. This was described as racist and inappropriate, especially when other white models were wearing a similar sweatshirt with inscriptions including “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert.”

The brand was forced to take down the ad and issued an apology: “We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”

They also followed it up with another apology on Instagram, saying “it’s obvious that our routines haven’t been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We’ll thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”

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