Italian luxury fashion label Prada is pulling a controversial product line that many have called “racist” and said depicts “blackface imagery.”
The new “Pradamalia” collection of wallets, jewelry and trinkets is part of what Prada calls “a new family of mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada.” The collection also features a $500 “Otto-Toto” monkeylike keychain with dark brown skin and large lips.
Chinyere Ezie, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote about her encounter with the collection after a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, where she saw an exhibit on “Sambo” blackface.
“I walked past Prada’s Soho storefront only to be confronted with the very same racist and denigrating #blackface imagery,” she wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “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.*”
According to the NMAAHC museum, blackface or “minstrelsy” was popularized between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century in the north and midwest. The performances “characterized blacks as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice” through exaggerated costumes and make-up, including large lips, bright white teeth and dark skin.
Ezie’s post has since been shared more than 6,000 times as Friday afternoon, prompting other folks on social media to express their concern and outrage.
Prada responded to the accusations on Twitter, stating it “abhors racist imagery.”
“The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre,” the company wrote. “They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface.”
The label added it never had the intention of offending anyone and will “withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.”
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