Prada has been slammed for using racist iconography in its latest keyring chain, which features a monkey with oversized red lips.
The keychains from the luxury fashion brand have been likened to the extremely racist 1899 children’s book caricature, Little Black Sambo.
Criticism was swift, with Facebook user and New York Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Chinyere Ezie calling out Prada claiming the keychains made her “shake with anger”.
Ezie’s post went viral, and many other social media users used the platforms to express their disappointment in the brand, with some even pushing to #BoycottPrada.
— Chinyere Ezie (@lawyergrrl) December 14, 2018
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I don’t know if y’all have seen Prada’s new blackface line, but more shocking than the products is the explanation. So Prada hired a team of researchers to come up with mysterious creatures that have “Prada DNA” (whatever thats supposed to mean) and little “sambo” dolls is what they came up with? 🤔 I guess they think we all live in the same fantasy world and all still have time to play with dolls…
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Woke up on the morning of our fourth birthday to some news about our namesake @prada . The “Pradamalia” collection, produced in collaboration with @2x4inc , features fantasy “lab-created” animals. According to a press release about the collab, the creatures mix up the codes of the house into their features. Many are comparing “Otto”, a resulting mutation of one of Prada’s oldest mascots, the monkey, to Little Sambo, a children’s book character from 1899, who exemplified the pickaninny style of blackface caricature, though other examples from as early as 1769 can be found. The exaggerated stereotypes propagated racism freely back then, but it’s apparent that the legacy of the harmful imagery still affects how we contextualize racism today. This is surprising from Prada, who’s known (at least recently) for the inclusivity of their casting, propelling then unknown models like Anok Yai and Jourdan Dunn into near supermodel status…not to mention casting Naomi Campbell in that 1994 campaign at a time when it was generally deemed “risky” to cast people of color in international luxury campaigns. Recently, they mounted “The Black Image Corporation”, an exhibition highlighting the importance and legacy of black creators in American publishing and photography, in both Milan and Miami. Representation is important, but understanding how to navigate the nuances of how the world perceives racism is even more so. One thing is pretty clear though…given recent scandals, luxury brands operating on a massive global scale need more systems in place to avoid controversies like this. A suggestion for now: more diversity on a corporate level for positions that actually hold power in decision making and brand imaging. Prada issued a swift apology on twitter and are in the process of removing the products from display and sale, but no mention on Instagram yet. Dieters, chime in with your thoughts! • Source: Chinyere Ezie via Twitter (@ lawyergrrl) • #prada #blackface #littlesambo #retailproblems #retaildisplay #soho #nyc #dietprada
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Prada has now released a statement apologising for the keychains, and have pulled the merchandise from stores.
A Prada spokesperson said: “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 all of the characters in question from display and circulation.”
The backlash comes just weeks after fellow luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana was embroiled in its own racist controversy.
In late November, D&G was forced to cancel a Shanghai fashion show as a campaign featuring a Chinese woman eating pizza with chopsticks was deemed racist.
Commenting on the campaign, China’s Communist Youth League said: “Foreign companies operating in China should respect China and respect Chinese people.
While actor Talu Wang also tweeted on social media platform Weibo: “Respect is more important than anything.”
The situation was made worse when screenshots of an Instagram post from the co-founder of Dolce & Gabbana Stefano Gabbana began circulating, where he had used poop emojis to reference China.