Frank Odhiambo, the father of the child model at the centre of the H&M race row, Liam, has revealed he had not seen the controversial “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie beforehand.
Mr Odhiambo and his wife Terry Mango, who live in Stockholm, Sweden, made the revelation to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield from their home in Stockholm on Monday.
Mr Odhiambo said he was aware his 5-year-old son was modeling for the Swedish fashion giant, H&M, but wasn’t informed, in advance, about the writings on the hoodie.
“You don’t think to spot something like that,” he said.
Mr Odhiambo, however, said he did not see anything wrong with the advert, which has now attracted global uproar.
“We do not put the item of clothing and the ‘monkey’ with racism,” said Mr Odhiambo, adding: “We were not expecting the furore that followed.”
Mr Odhiambo’s wife, Terry Mango, revealed how she had been racially abused herself and called a monkey.
She said: “I have had racist remarks directed at me first-hand. Even with the name ‘monkey’, I have been called a monkey before on a cruise ship and my reaction was the same as the world is reacting to me right now.
“But to put the t-shirt and the word ‘monkey’ with racism maybe that is not my way of looking at it. I’m just looking at Liam: black, young boy modelling a t-shirt that has the word ‘monkey’ on it. And I think everybody should respect different opinions based on racism.”
When asked if she had any sign during the shoot of the controversy to unfold, Ms Mango said: “Not for me, I wouldn’t see a connection for anything other than my son modelling a shirt.
“And until the controversy now with the whole furore that is going on then you kind of look back and wonder if you had noticed it, what would be your initial or my initial response to it.”
Mr Odhiambo and Ms Mango said Liam was unaware of the uproar over the advert and that he believed people think he is a “superstar.”
The H&M ‘monkey’ hoodie was first brought to light by blogger Stephanie Yeboah, who wrote: “Whose idea was it at @hm to have this little sweet black boy wear a jumper that says ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’? I mean. What.”
The backlash escalated when Canadian singer The Weeknd – who has previously modelled for H&M –terminated his contract with the clothing company.
The fashion firm apologised over the incident and said it had removed the image from its website and that the hoodie was withdrawn from sale.
But Ms Mango later spoke out to say she did not understand the outrage.
“Am the mum and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modelled… Stop crying Wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here… Get over it,” wrote Ms Mango in a social media post which has now been deleted.
Ms Mango, who was asked by Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield whether she thought the uproar was an overreaction, said though she did not agree with those who perceived the ad as ‘racist’, frowning upon racism is the appropriate reaction.
“It is not an overreaction when it comes to racism, everyone should react differently based on their opinions of racism,” she said. “Everybody should respect other people’s opinions on racism.”
(Reporting by The Mirror and Evening Standard)