Prada pulled monkey trinkets accused of using 'blackface imagery', and now New York's commission on human rights is investigating

Chinyere EzieThe controversial figures were removed from Prada stores on Friday.
  • Prada, the Italian luxury fashion house, said on Friday it has removed a set of monkey-like figures from its stores and displays after facing criticism on social media that they featured racist imagery.
  • The New York City Commission on Human Rights announced late Friday it sent the company a cease and desist letter and opened a formal investigation into the incident.
  • The black and red figurines went viral on social media after a Facebook post by a New York-area lawyer compared them to “blackface imagery.”

Prada is still in the midst of a racism controversy, and now it is facing an investigation from New York City.

The Italian luxury caught the ire of New Yorkers and users on social media on Friday for its a set of monkey-like figures that a viral Facebook post by a New York lawyer said used “blackface imagery”.

One of the trinkets is a brown, monkey-like figure with large red lips that appears to use “blackface imagery,” Chinyere Ezie said in a public Facebook post.

The post caused a stir both online, with the post gaining thousands of reactions, shares, and comments, and in local media.

A Prada representative told Business Insider on Friday that it would pull all figures from stores and displays around the world.

“Prada Group abhors racist imagery,” the company said. “We will withdraw all of the characters in question from display and circulation.”

A walk past Prada’s Soho store and a glace at the website confirms that Prada has done so.

PradaChinyere EzieThe ‘Otto’ figurines were on display in the window of Prada’s Soho store.

To some, the damage had already been done. The New York City Commission on Human Rights announced late on Friday it had immediately sent the company a cease and desist letter and opened a formal investigation into the incident on behalf of the city.

“In a time when reports of anti-Black discrimination and racism are increasing, it is appalling to see this kind of blatantly racists displays and merchandise from Prada,” assistant commissioner Sapna V. Raj said in an emailed statement. “Black New Yorkers face discrimination and bias every day. To see racist Jim Crow-era imagery so patently on display at an international luxury retailer’s storefront is appalling and not tolerated in our city.”

Among the demands of the commission was the removal of the offending material – which Prada says it has done. It’s also demanding the company not retaliate against employees if they acted opposed the offending merchandise and give human rights training to employees and executives.

“The Commission is taking swift action to demand Prada immediately comply with the NYC Human Rights Law, examine internal practices, issue an apology to all New Yorkers, and refrain from engaging in this type of harmful and discriminatory conduct in the future,” Raj said.


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The commissioner is authorised to fine up to $US250,000 for violators of the human rights law which requires the “finding of willful and malicious violations”.

The figures were on display throughout Prada’s store, including in the window display, in larger versions not available to purchase, and printed on leather accessories before the company scrubbed them.

Prada called the offending red and black character “Otto.” It was part of the company’s new “Pradamalia” collection, described on its website as “a new family of mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada” which was released to Prada stores worldwide in November. There was also a “Toto” version of the keychain that had yellow-and-green colouring.

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