Prada Accessories Recalled Over Blackface Controversy

A poorly-designed monkey keychain ignited the furor.

Fashion
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Mere days after Miuccia Prada accepted the British Fashion Council’s “Outstanding Achievement Award,” the luxury house that bears her name is the center of controversy. Much like H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” gaffe earlier this year, the outcry centers around a racist caricature deemed by many to be deserving of swift boycott.

Otto Toto, one of the Pradamalia series’ collectible keychains, is the monkey-inspired design that incited the criticism. Sporting a dark wooden body and oversized red lips, the character, particularly the ones in Prada’s SoHo store window, too closely resemble a racist Sambo figure for many Twitter users’ liking. As @landybugnyc put it: “Have you all lost your minds? Are you all that ignorant of the blatant racist display in your store right now?!”

Unlike the Dolce & Gabbana firestorm, Prada met the backlash with an apology and recall. The Pradamalia figures are “not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface,” the Italian house tweeted. “In this interest, we will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.”

 

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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! • #prada #blackface #littlesambo #retailproblems #retaildisplay #soho #nyc #dietprada

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I know that I’ve been silent, but currently dealing with stuff. But gotta point this ? out: Per what I’m reading, this is Prada SoHo NYC.. Thankfully, I don’t own Prada (and at this rate, I never will), cause if l did, ????. — (From: https://www.facebook.com/300322/posts/10102198924210054?sfns=0) I don’t make a lot of public posts, but right now I’m shaking with anger. 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. I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery. When I asked a Prada employee whether they knew they had plastered blackface imagery throughout their store, in a moment of surprising candor I was told that *a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore.* History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better. Until then please repost and retweet @Prada using the hashtags #StopBlackface #BoycottPrada #EndRacismNow

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