Prada stops selling US$550 monkey figurines that resembled blackface
- The monkeys were a part of Prada’s new ‘Pradamalia’ line of small items like key chains and toys featuring cartoon creatures that come in several colours
- It marks the latest instance of a fashion house using imagery that’s at best tone-deaf, at worst, racist and exploitative
Prada has apologised after some of its products displayed at a store in New York appeared to contain blackface imagery.
The US$550 figurines, part of a line of goods called Pradamalia, were pulled after they prompted outrage and accusations that they depicted racist caricatures of black people.
Prada said in a statement that it had not intended the products – some of which seemed to resemble black monkeys with outsized red lips – to have any reference to the real world or blackface 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,” the firm said.
New York-based civil rights lawyer Chinyere Ezie had seen the products at the Prada store in Manhattan’s Soho.
She later recounted on Facebook how the sight had left her “shaking with anger”.
“History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better,” Ezie wrote in the post, which quickly went viral.
This marks the latest instance of a fashion house using imagery that’s at best tone-deaf, at worst, racist and exploitative.
In November, Dolce & Gabbana angered Chinese customers with a video ad campaign that showed a Chinese model struggling to eat spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks.
Swedish apparel chain Hennes & Mauritz AB apologised after it featured a black child modelling a hoodie with the text “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” Some of its South African stores were vandalised and had to be closed temporarily.
The incident comes as Prada tries to plot its comeback. Prada, which is finally emerging from three years of falling profits set off by a slowdown in China and compounded by a failure to recognise that the internet had fundamentally transformed the luxury business, saw sales grow 9 per cent in the first half of 2018.
The Guardian, Bloomberg