After a social media post accusing Prada of racism went viral, the brand has pulled items from its displays and from circulation.
The items that drew criticism were monkey figurines that featured prominently in some of Prada’s window displays. With their black coloring and oversized red lips, the figurines were thought by many to resemble blackface characters in minstrel shows of the Jim Crow era.
Chinyere Ezie, a civil rights lawyer and social justice activist, brought initial attention to Prada’s displays with a public Facebook post on Thursday.
“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 wrote. “History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better.”
In a statement released on Twitter, Prada responded to these allegations.
“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,” the brand stated. “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.”
Many social media users felt unsatisfied with Prada’s response. Twitter users noted that the brand did not apologize for the incident and wondered how the figurines were allowed to go into circulation in the first place.
Prada is not the first fashion brand to come under fire for racial insensitivity in its product lines and marketing.
In January 2018, fast-fashion retailer H&M found itself in hot water after sharing an image of a black child clad in a sweatshirt reading “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” In light of the incident, H&M partner The Weeknd announced he would cut ties with the brand, and #BoycottHM began trending on Twitter. The same month, Amazon was forced to remove a line of children’s clothing emblazoned with the phrase “Slavery gets s**t done,” following public outcry from customers as well as anti-slavery organizations.