Prada pulls products after blackface imagery accusations
Amanda Coletta, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, December 16, 2018 4:08PM EST
Italian luxury brand Prada has issued an apology and removed a holiday window display at a New York store in response to complaints that its goods featured blackface imagery.
The window display at the company’s SoHo location in Manhattan had small, black and brown, monkey-like figurines with oversized red lips – common characteristics of historical blackface imagery. Inside the store, the figurines were sold on keychains, earrings and necklace charms.
Prada said in a statement that it “will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.”
The Italian fashion house also wrote in its statement that it “abhors racist imagery” and that its imaginary creatures were “not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface.”
The backlash began when Chinyere Ezie, a New York-based civil rights attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, spotted the products and posted photos of them on social media.
The display, she wrote on Facebook, left her “shaking with anger.” A Prada employee, she added, conceded that a black employee at the store had complained about the products, but no longer worked there.
“History cannot continue to repeat itself,” she wrote. “Black America deserves better. And we demand better.”
Ezie told NBC News that “this all could have been prevented had there been more diverse voices and more diverse people at the table.”
The products were part of the Pradamalia line, the company’s “new family of mysterious creatures,” each made of Saffiano leather and with their “own supernatural powers and a few glaring quirks.” They range in price from US$260 to $860.
The backlash against Prada comes on the heels of a controversy that ensnared Dolce & Gabbana, another Italian luxury brand. In November, the company was forced to apologize after it released video clips widely seen as racist, including one in which a Chinese model was being taught to eat Italian food with chopsticks.
The debacle only escalated when screenshots of private Instagram messages from Stefano Gabbana, company co-founder and designer, appeared to show him complaining about criticisms of the videos and suggesting that Chinese people eat dogs.
Gabbana claimed that his account was hacked, but the fallout led to the cancellation of a major Dolce & Gabbana fashion show in China and the removal of its products from the websites of Chinese retail giant Alibaba’s TMall platform.
[1/2] #Prada Group abhors racist imagery. The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre. They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface.— PRADA (@Prada) December 14, 2018
[2/] #Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. In this interest we will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.— PRADA (@Prada) December 14, 2018