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Prada responds to accusations of racism and insensitivity

By Robyn Turk


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Prada apologized for its offensive design. The Italian luxury brand was under fire from countless shoppers and social media users after a Facebook post calling out a racist product went viral on Thursday evening.

The product in question, an animal charm made to look like a monkey with large lips, is part of Prada’s recent “Pradamalia” collection. Along with the monkey, which the brand named Otto, According to the brand’s website, Pradamalia is a “new family of mysterious creatures,” and is made up of the monkey, named Otto, as well as characters called Disco, Fiddle, Toto, Scuba and Socks.

Whether or not Prada realized it while creating the characters, the stylization of Otto’s face was very similar to insensitive “blackface imagery,” as noted by Chinyere Ezie, staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Ezie brought attention to the Pradamalia item in a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon. In her post, Ezie wrote that the had recently visited an exhibit on blackface in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and when she spotted the Otto product in the storefront of Prada’s location in Soho, New York, she was “confronted with the very same racist and denigrating #blackface imagery.”

The post went viral, with many other social media users sharing the hashtags #StopBlackface, #BoycottPrada and #EndRacism now, which Ezie had included at the end of the original post. In less than 24 hours, the message had been shared over 6,700 times.

Prada responded with an apology quite soon after, writing on Twitter at 11:25 EST on Thursday morning, "#Prada Group abhors racist imagery. 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."

The brand promised it would remove the offensive items in question, writing in a follow-up, “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.”