Prada has issued an apology and taken down a holiday window display at its SoHo location after a civil rights lawyer passed the storefront and called out the company for utilizing racist imagery.
The window display in question had small, monkey-like creatures with black bodies and large, inflated red lips that resemble depictions of blackface from the early 20th century. “Thanks @Prada for making sure blackface remains live and well,” Chinyere Ezie, a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
In a public Facebook post, Ezie shared more photos of the display as well as the store’s interior (in addition to being used as decoration, Prada was selling the monkey-esque charms on keychains and jewelry). Ezie mentioned that she’d just visited an exhibit at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. on blackface and was shocked and disappointed to see similar images at a Prada store in New York.
I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery.
She went on to say that she asked a store employee about the display and they said “a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore.” Later she wrote, “It’s been three hours since I passed this storefront and still quaking with anger...”
In a statement released Friday, Prada says that the monkey-like character is part of its Pradamalia line, which the company’s website describes as the brand’s “new family of mysterious creatures.” The company insists that none of the charms are meant to be racist. But as one guy tweeted in response: “I am a 53 yr old white man in the south. You can Prada oeuvre all you want. I know blackface when I see it and this it.”
The similarities between the Pradamalia line and historical examples of blackface are undeniable—the fact that no one caught that before the display went up points to the fashion industry has a serious diversity problem, and until its hiring and retention practices are resolved, brands will absolutely continue to run into blind spots like these.