Following a social media post that called out fashion label Prada for selling and promoting racially insensitive products, the Italian brand has agreed in a settlement to undergo sensitivity training and implement changes.
In December 2018, civil rights lawyer Chinyere Ezie, posted several photos on Facebook of Prada figurines displayed in a New York City storefront that she said left her "shaking with anger."
The images were of products under Prada's "Pradamalia" lineup which included keychains and accessories in the shape of monkey figurines that resembled the blackfaced, red-lipped "Sambo" caricature -- a racist depiction that has been used to mock and dehumanize people of color for generations.
"I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo-like imagery," Ezie said in the post.
"History cannot continue to repeat itself," she continued. "Black America deserves better. And we demand better." She concluded the post by encouraging others to use the hashtags #StopBlackface #BoycottPrada #EndRacismNow.
Shortly after her post, Prada issued an apology via its Twitter account.
"We are committed to creating products that celebrate the diverse fashion and beauty of cultures around the world," the brand wrote in a statement. "We've removed all Pradamalia products that were offensive from the market and are taking immediate steps to learn from this."
After the outcry, the NYC Commission on Human Rights launched an investigation into Prada's storefront display and found that, "The display of such racist iconography manifests as discrimination on the basis of race, suggesting that Black people are unwelcome" and sent the fashion house a cease and desist letter last December.
On Monday, the NYC Commission filed a complaint accusing Prada of engaging in discriminatory practices, which the company denied. Today, New York City and Prada have reached a settlement. According to a statement from the NYC Human Rights Commission, "The settlement requires that Prada invest in restorative justice efforts to combat anti-Black racism and promote diversity and inclusion in Prada's business activities, advertising, and products."
The settlement also required that Prada to ensure that its New York City and Milan employees receive racial equity training, develop a scholarship program for people historically underrepresented in fashion, and establish diversity and inclusion policies and practices.
The settlement also required Prada's New York City employees undergo New York City human rights law training by a licensed attorney.
"The de Blasio Administration is committed to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers to live free of racial bias and discrimination," said J. Phillip Thompson, deputy mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives in a statement. "To see a symbol of Jim Crow era oppression sold as a luxury bauble is a critical reminder that there is still work to be done. By engaging Prada with communities who have been historically excluded from the luxury fashion industry, today’s settlement is an important step towards achieving positive social change in New York City."
Along with many others, Ezie expressed gratitude for the settlement. "No one who experiences racism should suffer in silence," she said in an Instagram post. "Our voices, our outrage, and our demands for dignified treatment can change the world. I am proud to see that my call-out of #blackface at @Prada ended with repair. This is what accountability looks like. "
Statement from a Prada Group Spokesperson
At the Prada Group, we are committed to creating products that celebrate the diverse fashion and beauty of cultures around the world. Diversity and inclusion represents one of the fundamental facets of social sustainability, and we, as a group, feel a strong responsibility to improve it in every aspect of our daily work. We are a global company comprised of people of various nationalities and different cultures and lifestyles and our employees world-wide represent over 100 nationalities in 40 countries. We are strongly committed to studying diversity and inclusion and engaging the best and brightest minds, including long-time collaborators Ava DuVernay and Theaster Gates, to pioneer a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council that will help us bring more voices into our processes, projects, and products. Other members of our Council include Mariarosa Cutillo, an accomplished humanitarian and Chief of Strategic Partnerships at The United Nations Population Fund, Sarah Lewis, a Harvard University Associate Professor of African and African-American Studies and author, and Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of the Fashion Institute of Technology and our fashion consultant on the Council. The Prada Group has already commenced and is committed to providing comprehensive diversity and inclusion training to all its employees. We are also partnering with universities, organizations and the United Nations to implement scholarship and internship programs that provide opportunities for under-represented groups in the fashion industry. We share the New York City Commission on Human Rights' commitment to ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented and respected, and we are pleased that our diversity and inclusion initiatives are aligned with their vision for a more equitable, inclusive industry. With this momentum toward creating meaningful progress, we look forward to continuing and strengthening our diversity and inclusion efforts at Prada and across the industry. Prada is gratified to have been able to collaborate with the New York City Commission on Human Rights on a mutually agreeable conclusion.