The luxury fashion house Prada has been forced to apologise after some of its products displayed at a store in New York appeared to contain blackface imagery.
The products, which comprise a line of accessories called Pradamalia, were pulled after they prompted fierce accusations the brand was caricaturing black people.
In a statement, the designer brand said that it “abhors racist imagery” and denied knowledge of the connotations to the Sambo-esque cartoon figures popularised in the US during the early 20th century Jim Crow era.
“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,” the statement read.
Prada said it “never had the intention of offending anyone” and pledged to withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.
After seeing the figurines in the New York store window on Thursday, lawyer Chinyere Ezie made a Facebook post urging people to boycott the brand.
Ezie wrote: “I don’t make a lot of public posts, but right now I’m shaking with anger.”
“I entered the store with a coworker, only to be assaulted with more and more bewildering examples of their Sambo like imagery.
“When I asked a Prada employee whether they knew they had plastered blackface imagery throughout their store, in a moment of surprising candor I was told that *a black employee had previously complained about blackface at Prada, but he didn’t work there anymore.*”
British PR consultant Ronke Lawal tweeted: “Not one person looked at this concept and was able to see what was wrong with the imagery?”
American actress Indya Moore called for a boycott of the fashion brand, writing: “Don’t wear @Prada no more.”
Moore attached an illustration of an early 20th century Sambo cartoon which is known for its racist connotations.
Journalist and broadcaster Afua Hirsch tweeted: “Prada has pulled these deeply racist dolls now. The fact that the company ‘looked into its DNA’ and found slavery era imagery there is apparently meant to make it seem less offensive. 2018 is ending as it began, with me wondering if it’s still 1718.”
Jeff B tweeted: “Prada’s Blackface collection is inexcusable, especially given all of the profit they make off of Black culture and Black people.
“The fact that they’ll remain in business really speaks to how intertwined and deeply conditioned anti-Blackness and capitalism are.”
Prada has been accused of being discriminatory in the past, owing to a perceived reluctance to cast non-white models for its runways.