Forever 21 Faces Backlash After Advertising a "Wakanda Forever" Sweater on a White Model
Despite the fact that Black Panther was released back in February, the excitement for all things "Wakanda" has not waned — especially this holiday season. Given the success of the movie, which tells the story of the fictional African nation, Wakanda, some fast-fashion retailers have taken it upon themselves to create merchandise based on the film. But not all of the merch have been well-received by Black Panther fans.
Forever 21 found itself at the center of controversy on Tuesday after their Twitter account posted a photo of a Black Panther-inspired holiday sweater featuring the iconic saying, “Wakanda Forever.” The problem? It was advertised on a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white model. The tweet, which featured a link to purchase, angered fans on Twitter, particularly Black Twitter, who were upset over Forever 21’s decision to advertise the sweater on a white person, particularly since the groundbreaking superhero film celebrates blackness.
Following the outrage online, the brand was prompted to delete the post as well as the images of the white model wearing their Wakanda Forever Fair Isle Sweater (which retails for $34.90) from the site. The sweater is still available, however.
But for Forever 21, the damage was already done, as people slammed the brand’s casting choice by calling it "tone deaf."
Others questioned how the use of a white model could have even been considered in the first place.
Following the backlash, Forever 21 issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, apologizing for the debacle.
“Forever 21 takes feedback on our product and marketing extremely seriously,” the statement reads. “We celebrate all superheroes with many different models of various ethnicities and apologize if the photo in question was offensive in anyway."
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time that a fashion retailer has offended a group of people with their casting choice.
Back in January, H&M came under fire after an ad for a hooded sweatshirt with the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle” was photographed on a black boy model. Many people criticized the photo for the monkey reference, which has historically been used as a racial slur toward people of color.
Hopefully, Forever 21 and other retailers can learn from this.