Ava DuVernay Will Co-Chair Prada’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council

Director and activist Ava DuVernay has joined Prada’s newly-developed Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council as co-chair, along with artist and professor Theaster Gates.

The launch of the diversity council comes in the wake of backlash Prada faced over a $500 keychain critics believed resembled a racist caricature. Prada apologized and removed the products but defended them, saying the keychains were “imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world.”


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Woke up on the morning of our fourth birthday to some news about our namesake @prada . The “Pradamalia” collection, produced in collaboration with @2x4inc , features fantasy “lab-created” animals. According to a press release about the collab, the creatures mix up the codes of the house into their features. Many are comparing “Otto”, a resulting mutation of one of Prada’s oldest mascots, the monkey, to Little Sambo, a children’s book character from 1899, who exemplified the pickaninny style of blackface caricature, though other examples from as early as 1769 can be found. The exaggerated stereotypes propagated racism freely back then, but it’s apparent that the legacy of the harmful imagery still affects how we contextualize racism today. This is surprising from Prada, who’s known (at least recently) for the inclusivity of their casting, propelling then unknown models like Anok Yai and Jourdan Dunn into near supermodel status…not to mention casting Naomi Campbell in that 1994 campaign at a time when it was generally deemed “risky” to cast people of color in international luxury campaigns. Recently, they mounted “The Black Image Corporation”, an exhibition highlighting the importance and legacy of black creators in American publishing and photography, in both Milan and Miami. Representation is important, but understanding how to navigate the nuances of how the world perceives racism is even more so. One thing is pretty clear though…given recent scandals, luxury brands operating on a massive global scale need more systems in place to avoid controversies like this. A suggestion for now: more diversity on a corporate level for positions that actually hold power in decision making and brand imaging. Prada issued a swift apology on twitter and are in the process of removing the products from display and sale, but no mention on Instagram yet. Dieters, chime in with your thoughts! • Source: Chinyere Ezie via Twitter (@ lawyergrrl) • #prada #blackface #littlesambo #retailproblems #retaildisplay #soho #nyc #dietprada

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According to Prada, the council will work to ”elevate voices of color within the company and the fashion industry at-large,” and invest ”in diverse talent development and [expanding] opportunities for young students of color in the fashion industry.”

Part of this effort includes collaborating with universities to create more diversity in the fashion industry through internship opportunities, sponsorships, and training programs.

“Prada is committed to cultivating, recruiting and retaining diverse talent to contribute to all departments of the company,” said Miuccia Prada, chief executive officer and lead creative director at Prada.

Prada is certainly not the only retailer to face backlash over racist products. Just recently, Gucci also found itself pulling products from the shelves after controversy regarding a turtleneck that looked like blackface. Several H&M stores in South Africa were stormed by people furious over a photo of a black child in a hoodie which read “coolest monkey in the jungle.” And Spanish retailer Zara is no stranger to controversy, with what seems like another racist or controversial misstep at least once a year. From their Holocaust prisoner shirt for kids, to their “white is the new black” adult t-shirt, Zara truly has no shame.

The fashion industry isn’t exactly celebrated for being inclusive, and the number of times that designers have tried to pass off blackface, cultural appropriation or other racist stereotypes as fashion is enough to make you sick.

Brands shouldn’t need customers to point out that a product is racist after that product is already in stores. They should have internal mechanisms—or just personal empathy—to prevent things from getting that far. However, the attention consumers are paying to what brands put into the world might be having a positive impact.

Following its own racist controversy, H&M announced that it had hired Annie Wu as a diversity manager to be the “global leader for diversity and inclusiveness.”

“My responsibility will be to bring both awareness of the topic of inclusiveness and diversity and to help disrupt ourselves in this area,” said Wu, following the announcement. “To make sure we make the changes internally in order to be at the forefront of the conversation.”

Although long overdue, Prada and H&M are making good first steps. The benefit of creating positions and councils devoted to diversity is that companies can avoid controversy altogether by centering diverse voices. Other fashion retailers—and really companies across industries—would be wise to make this kind of change and implement policies to prevent racist missteps before they ever happen.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

22 comments

Gino C
Gino C34 minutes ago

thank you

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Chad Anderson
Chad A24 days ago

Thank you.

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Sherry K
Sherry Kohn26 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Thomas M
Thomas M26 days ago

Thank you

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Shirley S
Shirley S26 days ago

They should have a classy shoe on their key chain.

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Peggy B
Peggy B26 days ago

TYFS

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Alea C
Alea C26 days ago

Do you have any idea how many people had to approve that key chain before it went into production? A lot. And each one gave it the green light. It's revolting.

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Janet B
Janet B26 days ago

Thanks

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran26 days ago

Hmmmm,, fashion industry doesn't care who it hurts.. - Just have to look at the stick-thin, young models they use on their runways; it's heartbreaking... - Snotty-nosed companies have sht for brains...

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD26 days ago

tyfs

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