American fashion brand Calvin Klein has been forced to apologise after fans accused it of “queerbaiting” in its new advertising campaign.
The new advert features heterosexual model Bella Hadid kissing a fictional female digital character known as Lil Miquela.
People have accused the brand of queerbaiting – when companies use the suggestion of a homosexual relationship in order to attract gay fans, whilst trying not to alienate straight customers.
Criticising the ad, Madison Malone Kircher, an associate editor at New York Magazine, said on Twitter: “Who is gonna tell Calvin Klein you’re supposed to wait until June for your tone-deaf queer-bait ad campaigns!! lil miquela and bella hadid [sic] out here smooching two weeks too early!!!”
June is often referred to as pride month, when most pride events begin to take place around the world.
Another Twitter user said: “Stop using lesbianism to sell your clothing.. we’re not garnish for men.”
Apologising to fans, the company Calvin Klein said: “The concept for our latest #MYCALVINS campaign is to promote of expression for a wide range of identities, including a spectrum of gender and sexual identities.
“This specific campaign was created to challenge conventional norms and stereotypes in advertising.
“In this particular video, we explored the blurred lines between reality and imagination.”
Here at CALVIN KLEIN, we welcome all types of constructive feedback from our community. We see your comments and we appreciate them. We’d like to offer our thoughts in response to comments on our campaign video featuring Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela. pic.twitter.com/OIcIekyR9K
— CALVIN KLEIN (@CalvinKlein) May 17, 2019
The firm continued: “We understand and acknowledge how featuring someone who identifies as heterosexual in a same-sex kiss could be perceived as queerbaiting.
“As a company with a longstanding tradition of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, it was certainly not our intention to misrepresent the LGBTQ+ community.
“We sincerely regret any offence we caused.”
Ms Hadid’s agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lil Miquela is a fictional, digital character and is often referred to as a robot.
Her Instagram account, which claims she is from California, has amassed more than 1.5m followers since launching in 2016 and features the character modelling and singing.