We are sorry if we have upset anyone with our latest swimwear campaign. It was not our intention to show off a specific ideal or to encourage dangerous behavior, but was instead to show off our latest summer collection, the company said in an email sent to AFP.
H&M said the goal of the advertisements was to highlight the brightly colored bathing suits, not advocate tanning.
The Swedish Cancer Society and other critics blasted H&M saying the advertisements advocated excessive tanning, which could lead to health issues like cancer.
Every year, more people die in Sweden of (skin cancer) than in traffic accidents, and the main cause is too much sunning, the group wrote in an opinion piece for a Swedish newspaper, according to the AFP.
Regardless of how the H&M model got her tan, through sunning or a computer program, the effect is the same: H&M tells us we should be very tan on the beach, it said.
A spokeswoman for H&M defended the ads yesterday, telling a Swedish newspaper that Fontana was chosen because as a Brazilian, her naturally darker skin would showcase the bright colors and strong patterns of the summer swim line better than some pale-faced European, wrote Gawker's Caity Weaver.
The Swedish Cancer Society acknowledged that Fontana's skin may have been darkened with makeup or digital enhanced, yet the claim the advertising campaign contributes to more people dying from skin cancer.
Dr. Ralph Braun, from the Early Skin Cancer Centre at Zurich University Hospital, told the Daily Mail that the advertisement was very alarming.
'Many people, especially the young, will try to emulate this and will try to be just as brown, although with some skin types this is just not possible.'
H&M said they have taken note of the views and will continue to discuss this internally ahead of future campaigns, the Swedish retailer said in the email.
The company has also been criticized for using very thin models in their advertisements.