Fashion giant H&M pulls ad after claims it sexualised underage girls

Swedish brand apologises after advertisement campaign in Australia prompts backlash online.

H&M is the latest fashion brand to come under fire for an advertising campaign [TT News Agency/Fredrik Sandberg via Reuters]

H&M, the Swedish fashion giant, has pulled an advertisement for school clothing after complaints it sexualised underage girls.

The advertising campaign launched in Australia featured two young girls in school uniform with the caption, “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion”.

“We have removed this ad,” an H&M spokesperson said on Monday. “We are deeply sorry for the offence this has caused and we are looking into how we present campaigns going forward.”

The move comes after social media users accused the clothing brand of sexualising young girls.

“The little girls’ parents generally prefer heads don’t ‘turn’ when others see their daughters walking to school, on a bus or in class,” Melinda Tankard Reist, an Australian writer known for campaigning against pornography, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Why would you want to fuel the idea that little girls should draw attention to their looks, bodies and ‘style’? Perhaps have a word to your marketing team and come up with something that doesn’t draw attention to pre-pubescent girls already struggling to thrive in a culture that values ‘lookism’ as an aspirational goal?”

The backlash is the latest in a series of controversies involving fashion brands’ advertising campaigns.

Last month, Zara dropped a campaign featuring a model standing among rubble and mannequins wrapped in shrouds after social media users claimed it was insensitive to victims of the war in Gaza.

Paris-based luxury fashion brand Balenciaga last year apologised for running advertisements that featured children holding teddy bears wearing bondage-style attire and a printout of a Supreme Court decision that upheld laws against child pornography.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies