Luxury Italian fashion house Prada is facing accusations that it promoted blackface imagery in its stores and online.
The controversy centers around the brand’s new “Pradamalia” line, which includes a collection of monkey figurines sporting enlarged red lips and black faces. The design was featured on keychains retailing for $550 and in storefront windows.
There isn’t one person on @Prada’s team that could’ve informed them, that this new collection wasn’t a good idea?
Did you all not learn anything from the H&M scandal? Who approved this? If these high end designers aren’t stealing from the culture then they are offending it! pic.twitter.com/PBJJ8TliI5
— Jerome Trammel (@MrJeromeTrammel) December 14, 2018
Civil-rights attorney and activist Chinyere Ezie was the first shopper to draw widespread attention to the controversial designs. Ezie felt compelled to speak out after she noticed the figurines during an outing with a co-worker in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
The attorney wrote on Facebook: “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.”
Ezie — who was “shaking with anger” about the situation — tried to get answers from a store employee, but the conversation left her with more questions.
She continued: “I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo-like imagery. 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.'”
The post concluded: “History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better.”
After Ezie’s post went viral, some consumers started a #BoycottPrada hashtag on social media. Prada’s Twitter account addressed the criticism Friday, announcing that it planned to pull the characters from display and circulation.
“The Prada Group abhors racist imagery. The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre,” the statement reads. “They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface.”
[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
The message continues: “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.”
[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
Ezie, however, isn’t impressed with the brand’s apology.
“If @prada had people of color on staff in positions of power, #BoycottPrada would have never happened,” she argued on Twitter Friday afternoon. “Just another reminder why #diversitymatters.”
Ezie’s pointed tweet had received 1,000 likes as of Friday afternoon.