Marks & Spencer has added a wider range of skin tone colours to its underwear selection in a bid to address diversity issues in its range.
However, some critics have pointed out the update “should have been done years ago.”
The M&S “nothing neutral about it” campaign was launched in a bid to broaden its offering to shoppers following customer feedback, the brand says.
It admitted “nude” and “neutral” had generally been used for lighter skin tones in the past.
M&S added that its “more inclusive” range of lingerie was partly inspired by the “global conversation” following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last May.
Former cop Derek Chauvin was found of guilty of Floyd’s murder, after his death sparked a wave of anti-racism protests worldwide.
M&S said the campaign offered more colours, sizes and choice within the neutral category, adding it “recognised the need to do more”.
The retailer said: “With changes already in motion to really redefine inclusive colours within lingerie, last year the team was driven to go harder and faster, fuelled by the global conversation on racial inequality, following the horrific death of George Floyd, as well as clear customer feedback on industry standard colour names such as ‘tobacco’.”
The terms “nude” and “neutral” had generally been used for lighter skin tones, and the items on offer at M&S were “inconsistent and inadequate for all ethnicities”, it added.
M&S is now offering five new shades under a “new neutrals” banner, named Opaline, Rich Amber, Rich Quartz, Rose Quartz and Topaz.
But some were unimpressed by the brand’s reference to Floyd’s death in its promotion material for its new campaign.
Blogger Steph Yeboah wrote: “So…it took a black man being murdered by police for @marksandspencer to create underwear shades suitable for black and brown people? Ok.”
Jezebel writer Ashley Reese also said: “I feel like the millions of Black and brown people who live in the UK would have been reason enough for M&S to produce more nude underwear for POC, not… the discourse following George Floyd’s murder. But sure.”
In an article critiquing the campaign, she pointed out other brands had been offering diverse ranges of underwear options for years before M&S followed suit.
Another critic on Twitter posted: “Because nothing says ‘sexy underwear’ like a dude choking on his own spit in the street with a knee on his neck while having a heart attack.”
Twitter user Rebekah added: “M&S underwear range for racial inclusiveness should have been done years ago but more importantly, why are they attaching George Floyd’s name next to the campaign?
“It’s like they used his name just for the attention?”
M&S director of lingerie Laura Charles said: “We are the UK market leaders in bras and knickers and with that comes a responsibility to ensure what we sell makes all of our customers feel fantastic.
“We listened when our customers and colleagues told us we hadn’t got it right when it came to colour; both in the choices available and the way we talked about the neutral shades.
“The global conversations around race and equality over the last 12 months spurred us to go faster in creating a better, more inclusive range.
“From the product offer to the names, to the marketing, we’ve worked hand in hand with our colleague Culture & Heritage network to deliver a campaign we’re proud of and an underwear range that provides more colours, more sizes and more choice so that all of our customers have the freedom to complement or contrast with their individual skin tone in a way that suits their own personal style.”