Prada apologizes after products spark accusations of racism
NEW YORK - AFP
Italian fashion label Prada has said it will set up an advisory council on diversity issues after being forced to pull monkey-like keychain figurines from its shelves over accusations of racism.
The so-called "Pradamalia" creatures, featured prominently in the window display of its Soho store in New York, sparked outrage for their exaggerated red lips that brought blackface caricatures to mind.
"We would like to convey our deep regret and sincere apologies for the Pradamalia products that were offensive. They have been removed from the market and will not be sold," Prada said in a statement released Dec. 16 on Twitter.
"Going forward, we pledge to improve our diversity training and will immediately form an advisory council to guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion and culture," the label said.
"We will learn from this and do better."
The problematic custom of blackface dates back to about 1830, and so-called "minstrel shows," when white performers caked their faces in greasepaint or shoe polish and drew on exaggerated lips in a caricature of blacks.
The stereotypes portrayed that blacks were somehow inferior, ignorant, lazy and even animalistic cemented racist attitudes for decades. Some of those images still exist today.
The problem for Prada began with its Soho store display one lawyer who passed by the store slammed the figurines as racist in a Facebook post, posting several photos of the controversial objects.
At first, the company defended itself, saying its "Pradamalia" were "fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre," and adding: "They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface." But when some consumers called for a boycott of the label, Prada went farther in its apology.
"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," it said, adding that it would probe how the problematic product reached the market in the first place.
Prada also said it would donate any proceeds from Pradamalia already sold to a "New York-based organization committed to fighting racial justice, which is a value that we strongly believe in."
Prada is hardly the first company to get tripped up on issues of race and racist imagery.
Dolce and Gabbana was forced to apologize to Chinese customers last month after it posted short clips on Instagram showing a Chinese woman eating pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks that some deemed culturally insensitive. It escalated when Stefano Gabbana allegedly used poop emojis to describe China and hurled insults at the country and its people.
In the United States, television news personality Megyn Kelly lost her morning talk show in October after questioning on air if blackface was always problematic.