Prada Pulls "Racist" Products After Backlash Over "Blackface Imagery"
Prada is removing products and decorations from its website and stores after facing backlash for their resemblance to blackface imagery.
On Thursday, activist and civil rights lawyer Chinyere Ezie posted a call to #BoycottPrada on Facebook after encountering dark, monkey-like figurines with large red lips prominently displayed in the Italian fashion house's Soho store window. "Today after returning to NYC after a very emotional visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture including an exhibit on blackface, I walked past Prada’s Soho storefront only to be confronted with the very same racist and denigrating #blackface imagery," she wrote.
"When I asked a Prada employee whether they knew they had plastered blackface imagery throughout their store, in a moment of surprising candor I was told that *a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore,*" she added.
Ezie is not the only one to point out the resemblance of the creature — part of the brand's "Pradamalia" collection — and the well-known coon caricatures popular in the early and mid-20th century.
Videos began circulating on Twitter on Friday of New York Prada employees removing the imagery from their stores, while The Hollywood Reporter reports that the offending products — including keychains, wallets and jewelry — were also removed from their website.
A representative for the brand told THR: “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. We abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. We will withdraw all of the characters in question from display and circulation.”
According to the brand's website, the Pradamalia collection is "a new family of mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada." The 7 figures — Disco, Socks, Fiddle, Otto, Toto, Scuba, and Spot — were also featured heavily on the brand's Instagram page, however images of the character in question have since been removed.
Update, Dec. 17, 2018: In a statement to InStyle following the incident, Prada said that they will make an effort to increase diversity at the brand, starting with an Advisory Council to "guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion and culture."
"The resemblance of the products to blackface was by no means intentional, but we recognize that this does not excuse the damage they have caused," reads the statement. "Everyone at our company, from the creative directors to the store managers work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations every day — which makes this reflection on our company all the more hurtful."
Prada also stated that the are donating the profits from the products to a New York-based organization that fights racial injustice.