Note: we are republishing this story amid a nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in America.
Kusi Kimani was at a Marks & Spencer store when she noted something disturbing. The lighter colored bras were named after sweets like "fudge" or "cinnamon," whilst the dark-colored bra was named "tobacco."
The company has since apologized, stating that it has "more to do and more to learn."
The 29-year-old from East Sussex initially complained to the store in June, and told The Mirror: "Why not call it cocoa, caramel or chocolate – sweet dessert items? But they used tobacco. I was shocked when I saw it. It's hurtful to me and my friends. If a young girl who is already uncomfortable with the color of her skin (sees it) she will be feeling even more alienated.”
She added: "Each week that website is showing that racism is another week a young girl may come across it and feel bad for the rest of her life. To see that 'tobacco' is for their skin tone will make them feel unwanted by society. Tobacco is referred to in society as bad, unhealthy, and highly likely to kill - ‘smoking kills’."
Kimani stated that this was a clear example of how entrenched racial bias is within the society.
M&S sent an email to Kimani on June 10 that read: "The names we use are taken from those on a color palette and were never designed to match to a skin tone - I would like to assure you the choice of names is absolutely not intended to carry any negative connotations. We review design trends in the market each year to ensure we are offering a fashionable palette to all our customers, and we are actively reviewing our naming convention in the light of the feedback we are receiving. We liaise with our store colleagues on a regular basis to determine which colors we need to offer our customer and we are also working with our BAME colleague network to receive their input too."
A spokesperson for M&S issued an apology, saying: "In June we shared our commitments to being a truly inclusive place to shop and work and were honest that we have more to do and more to learn. As part of this, we are reviewing our ranges, supported by our BAME network, to ensure we have lingerie items that are flattering and suitable for all customers. All of our product color names have been taken from a design color palette used across the industry, but we agree with Kusi. We are changing the name of the bra color and are writing to Kusi to confirm that, and let her know that we’re sorry for not moving faster.”
Sources: Evening Standard