Big brands should know better

The H&M image that caused an outcry.

Over time fashion has transcended gender stereotypes and westernised norms, which society has largely abandoned, by adopting gender fluidity and culture into high end fashion circles.

However, the advertising industry has yet to catch up.

Its inability to transcend binaries and stereotypical depictions of race in advertisements was in the spotlight recently, when there was an outcry over an H&M advert.

The fashion house has followed in the footsteps of Dove with its questionable portrayal of a black boy wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie. Some of South Africa’s celebs have rallied together against the advert and said they would not support the brand any longer.

While this sort of “mistake” by big brands is one that is obvious to viewers, it is somehow missed and approved by those in the advertising industry who should know better.

And one has to question how transformed the advertising industry is, if it still makes such mistakes.

Dove also found itself in the midst of a social media storm last year when it released a series of images that showed a black woman turning white after using its soap.

The number of such racial stereotypes in the media is shocking and one has to question why this is being allowed in a world that has gone to lengths to ensure equality and the fair treatment of all. Those who argue that the H&M advert could have been an innocent mistake only illustrate how deep the roots of racism and ignorance go.

In the past, people of colour were taken from their homes and transported to Europe and the United States to be displayed like animals, for the amusement of others.

African people were also portrayed as monkeys in comics written to humour their masters. This is the painful history that the H&M advertisement drags up.

I believe that the advertising industry is in serious need of change. It should be diversified and people who are socially conscious and aware of our painful past should have leading roles to ensure that campaigns such as this one don’t ever leave the think tank again.

And when people of colour are appointed they should not simply be tokens fulfilling a company’s Black Economic Empowerment quota.

Instead, they should be leading the change to ensure that their ideas or opinions are not overridden by those who refuse to change the industry.

I say that we should stand with our fashionistas and refuse to support brands that are insensitive and opposed to change. There are enough local fashion brands out there for us to support instead.

And speaking of support, to those who have been reading my column and emailing me for tips and advice, I would like to thank you for yours.

It has been such a pleasure to assist you in your fashion endeavours, however, this will be my last column for Cape Community Newspapers.

I bid you farewell and hope that you keep your head high and your swag on because confidence is the key to looking great in any outfit.

This is not the end of our fashion column. From next month, we will bring you a new columnist to help keep you in style. Watch this space!