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Prada pulls trinkets from stores after being accused of using 'blackface imagery'

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/14/2018 Dennis Green
a red and black shoes © Prada
  • Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, says it is removing a set of monkey-like figures from its stores and displays after facing criticism on social media that they featured racist imagery.
  • People have been slamming the company for using "blackface imagery" on several trinkets that look like monkeys with brown skin and large red lips.
  • Exaggerated red lips are a common trait of racist cartoons depicting black people throughout American history.

Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, says it is removing a set of monkey-like figures from its stores and displays after facing criticism on social media that they featured racist imagery.

One of the trinkets is a monkey-like figure that has brown skin and large red lips and that appears to use "blackface imagery," as pointed out in a public Facebook post from user Chinyere Ezie.

"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," Ezie's post reads.

The figure in question was on display throughout Prada's store, including in the window display, on larger versions not available for purchase, and on leather accessories. The figure is known as "Otto-Toto" and is part of Prada's "Pradamalia" collection, which is "a new family of mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada," according to the company's website.

The keychain also comes in a yellow and green pattern.

A spokesperson for Prada said in a statement to Business Insider on Friday that it would be pulling the figures from stores and displays.

"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. We abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery," the company said.

"We will withdraw all of the characters in question from display and circulation."

Exaggerated red lips are a common trait of racist cartoons depicting black people throughout American history - as are googly eyes, inky skin, and very white teeth - featured in everything from advertisements to entertainment and children's books. 

"History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better," Ezie wrote. "And we demand better."

Ezie called for a boycott of Prada, and the post has now gone viral on Facebook, with thousands of reactions, comments, and shares. 

Others have echoed the sentiment. 

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