prada forced to remove blackface display and products

December 18, 2018
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The Prada Group, the Italian luxury brand, showed their asses last week with a highly offensive window display at a SoHo Prada boutique. The display? Two bizarre, high-end Golliwog like sculptures featuring jet black skin, wide eyes, and oversized red lips; life-size versions of a smaller $500 key chains the store was selling. Problematic to say the least, the little creatures exhibited monkey-like features only to be exacerbated by what some are calling Blackface.

Clearly drawing an allusion to “Little Black Sambo”, a 19th Century children’s book, and the anti-Black propaganda of Jim Crow, Prada was called out by a scathing social media post. Enough people were outraged by the display that the company was forced to remove the “props” along with the expensive charms, but not before denying any racist implications associated with the updated Golliwogs:

“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,” the company said in a statement.

This incident comes just weeks after Prada teamed up with Chicago artist Theaster Gates for a pop-up exhibit of his “The Black Corporation”, which is currently on exhibition at Milan’s Fondazione Prada and was featured at Art Basel Miami two weeks ago. The show explores Black beauty and aesthetic, culture, and history and how those things have been shaped by magazines like Jet and Ebony.

“It’s a way of celebrating the Black American image, but also a way of celebrating the under-known photographers and creatives in the context for which those images were made, which is exactly this context,” said Gates. “One of the reasons for (saying) ‘Yes’ to the project was that Ms. Prada’s hand has always been very light. Her request would be like, ‘Can you do something with this space?’ And (with) that kind of openness, it feels like it allows for the best artistic response.”

Hmm. The Guardian reported that Prada is creating a diversity advisory council in the wake of the Blackface backlash. Hopefully Ms. Prada and co. remain receptive to a diversity of ideas and perspectives going forward and are more discerning and truly committed when it comes to positive Black images and representation.