On Thursday 13 December, lawyer Chinyere Ezie spotted figurines in the Prada shop window in Soho, New York that bore a resemblance to racist depictions of black people, with dark skin and large, red lips.
She expressed her disgust on social media, sharing photos of the figures from the Italian fashion house’s window display and from within the store.
“Today after returning to NYC after a very emotional visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American history and Culture including an exhibit on blackface, I walked past Prada’s Soho storefront only to be confronted with the very same racist and denigrating #blackface imagery,” she wrote on Facebook.
She explained that she then entered the store with a colleague, only to see several more examples of blackface.
When she asked a Prada employee whether they were aware of the issue, they informed her that “a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore.”
Ezie implored others to share the photos using the hashtags “#StopBlackface”, “#BoycottPrada” and “#EndRacismNow”, many of whom did on Twitter.
“Have you all lost your minds? Are you all that ignorant of the blatant racist display in your store right now?!” one person wrote.
"How many times does a black child's heart have to get broken in this culture?,” another person commented.
“How does a black parent walking with their daughter or son explain these images? Or a white parent for that matter?"
if I was a betting man I'd say these Prada monkeys aren't going to go over well pic.twitter.com/Y6lOnYPUAE— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) December 14, 2018
Ezie added that this controversy would likely have never occurred if Prada had a more diverse workforce, tweeting: “Let @Prada know that #diversitymatters and that black and brown employees need to be in leadership positions so disgraces like this one never happen again #Stopblackface #EndRacismNow.”
Prada has since issued an apology, explaining that the products in question are going to be removed from the brand’s fantasy “Pradamalia” collection.
“#Prada Group abhors racist imagery,” the statement reads on Twitter.
“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.”
One person responded to Prada’s apology explaining that it was unfathomable that no one in the company had noticed the reference to blackface.
“Of course it’s a reference to blackface. It’s like someone looked up blackface and copied every single picture associated with it,” they wrote.
In November, Dolce and Gabbana was accused of racism for featuring an Asian model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks in a video campaign.
Founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana later apologised with regards to the controversy, saying that they offered their “sincerest apologies to Chinese people worldwide.”