“We regret if we have upset some of our customers; we only wanted to show our latest swimwear,” said Håcan Andersson, spokesman for H&M, to Aftonbladet.
The ads, part of an outdoor campaign displayed in Sweden and 43 other countries, showed a very tanned woman modelling H&M bikinis.
“The model in the swimwear campaign is called Isabeli Fontana and she is Brazilian, which means that she has a darker skin tone than most Europeans,” an H&M representative told The Local in May.
But since the campaign was launched, the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman (Reklamombudsmannen – RO) received seven complaints against the campaign, saying that it was sexist and discriminatory, that the model was too thin and that she was sporting an unhealthy tan.
The watchdog ultimately ruled that the campaign was neither sexist nor did it promote an unhealthy and skinny ideal body image.
However, the body did rap H&M for using a model that was too tan.
“It is widely known that an exaggerated exposure of the skin to radiation to the sun is bad and can lead to skin cancer. The advertisement shows an ideal through the model’s extremely tanned skin, which would be harmful to try to achieve,” the watchdog wrote in a statement.
The Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden) in May blasted the advertisements.
“The clothing giant is creating, not least among young people, a beauty ideal that is deadly,” the cancer society wrote in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper at the time.
“Every year, more people die in Sweden of (skin cancer) than in traffic accidents, and the main cause is too much sunning,” the group said.
Having been forced to make a formal apology at the time, H&M say they never intended to promote an unhealthy ideal.
However, according to Andersson, the company hasn’t had any reactions in any of the other 43 countries where the campaign was launched.
“We will simply try to take this in ahead of the next campaign and next summer,” Andersson told Aftonbladet.