Marks & Spencer has apologised after a customer described her online shopping experience as “hurtful”, due to a “racist” name given to a bra in a darker skin tone.
Kusi Kimani, 29, noted that the colours of the £12 skin-toned bras all had different names.
The lighter colours were named after sweet treats, from fudge to cinnamon, whereas the darkest colour available on the website was called “tobacco”.
“Why not call it cocoa, caramel or chocolate – sweet dessert items? But they used tobacco. I was shocked when I saw it,” Kimani told The Mirror.
“It’s hurtful to me and my friends. If a young girl who is already uncomfortable with the colour of her skin (sees it) she will be feeling even more alienated.
Kimani added that tobacco is unhealthy and that seeing it used to describe a skin tone could make young women “feel unwanted by society”.
The bra is no longer listed on the M&S website as coming in the ‘tobacco’ shade, the colour options are now ‘fudge’, ‘deep auburn’ and ‘cinnamon’.
Speaking about Kimani’s experience, Marks & Spencer issued an apology.
“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,” the statement read.
“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 colour names have been taken from a design colour palette used across the industry, but we agree with Kusi. We are changing the name of the bra colour and are writing to Kusi to confirm that, and let her know that we’re sorry for not moving faster.”
This isn’t the first time that M&S has made a change after customer backlash.
Last year it renamed its Pornstar Martini after people accused the retailer of “normalising porn”. The drink’s name was changed to Passion Star Martini to fall in line with guidance from an independent complaints panel.
Early last year, the retailer was also accused of “cultural appropriation” after the launch of its vegan biriyani wrap. One chef said that the wrap didn’t contain the right ingredients to be called a classic biriyani, a sentiment that many people on social media shared.