Civil rights lawyer Chinyere Ezie says she had just returned to New York City after a particularly emotional visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC when she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. Walking past Prada’s Soho storefront, she noticed a series of figures that looked like racist caricatures in blackface.
On Facebook, Ezie publicized her experience with the luxury retailer, saying that she “entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery.”
— Chinyere Ezie (@lawyergrrl) December 13, 2018
And when Ezie approached a Prada employee about the offending products, she says the worker told her that another employee had complained about the caricatures, but no longer worked at the company.
In a post that has been shared over 7,380 times in the last 24 hours, Ezie ends by imploring, “History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better.”
Prada responded on Twitter earlier today, December 14, by admitting that their holiday installation may have run afoul, saying:
#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 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.
The objects in question belong to the Italian house’s Pradamalia collection, which the luxury retailer sells for anywhere from $280 to $750. The company describes the new accessory line as its “new family of mysterious creatures … raised in isolation within the austere confines of Prada Labs, each [having] a triangular Prada heart and a checkerboard patterned brain.” The trinkets come with whimsical names like Disco, Socks, Fiddle, and Scuba.
Imaginative descriptions aside, many on social media are decrying the Pradamalia collection for featuring characters with dark-colored skin, monkey-like features, and large red lips. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the fashion retailer has already begun removing the offending objects from its storefronts and website.
— Andrew Ramos (@AndrewRamosTV) December 14, 2018
Earlier this year, the Swedish fashion brand H&M embroiled itself in a similar controversy when it ran an ad featuring a Black child wearing a green hoodie that read, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” When criticism erupted on social media, the company quickly removed the photo and issued an apology through a spokesperson.
Back in 2016, Dolce & Gabanna released a pair of “Slave Sandals” in its summer lineup. More recently, the company launched an ad in China featuring a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza and cannoli with chopsticks. Outrage at the video eventually resulted in a boycott of the brand and cancellation of their impending fashion show after co-designer Stefano Gabbana’s xenophobic messages were leaked.
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