Prada and Racism

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THE STORY

Prada has recently launched a series of figures in the shape of creatures called Pradamalia that were to be sold as handbag keychains in a window display in New York City. One of the trinkets, a cartoonish wooden monkey with brown skin and exaggerated red lips which is closely resembled the blackface “Sambo-like imagery”. One day, one New Yorker spotted the figures in a Prada window display and she decided to share the disgusting and accusing Prada of spreading racist blackface imagery in social media.

On Friday, December 14, 2018, Prada announced to pull the accessories and displays from its stores following complaints that they featured “blackface imagery.”

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Response from audience

Chinyere Ezie posted a status in disgust: “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.”

Looking back: Places the imagery side by side with historically racist images

Prada’s designer background

Miuccia Prada is head designer of Prada and the founder of its subsidiary Miu Miu. She studied mime at the Teatro Piccolo, following a political science Ph.D. at the University of Milan. In addition, she was a member of the Italian Communist party, where she picketed in Yves Saint Laurent. Her fabulous quotation was that she thought beauty was ‘bourgeois,’ which seems like a good Communist quote. “Every young kid who was vaguely clever was Leftist,” she shrugs today. “So it’s not that I was so special.”

She was the focus on the all-white, homogeneous runways of the 1990s, but in recent years she has been changed for casting models of color in her advertising products.

In September 2018, her art foundation opened “The Black Image Corporation,” conceived by artist Theaster Gates. In order to celebrate the opening of the Milan exhibition, directors Spike Lee and Dee Rees did a panel discussion with Gates on racism in America.

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