Luxury Italian fashion house Prada shut down a New York City storefront and pulled a keychain from its stock after the accessory went viral for resembling blackface imagery.
The complaint was first made on Twitter and Facebook by Chinyere Ezie, a civil-rights attorney and activist who works at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ezie saw the keychain while walking past the line’s SoHo store in downtown Manhattan.
“Thanks to #blackface @Prada, now you can take #sambo home with you for the holidays #StopRacism #StopBlackface #StopPrada,” Ezie wrote on Twitter, referencing a disparaging term for black men.
The offensive bauble in question was a $550 Pradamalia Otto-Toto Keychain Trick .
According to the brand’s website, the Pradamalia line features “mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada.”
But for many, the monkey-like figurine looked like it could have come straight out of a minstrel show, with its red, oversized lips.
“Wow. Prada seems to think this is some kind of ‘mysterious’ new invention. Hate to break it to you guys, this ain’t the future. It’s the past. The very recent, racist past and it’s all too present now, clearly #blackface #sambo #slavery still in vogue, apparently,” British journalist Afua Hirsch wrote on Twitter.
After Ezie’s post went viral, the brand released a statement on Twitter that read: “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. Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. In this interest we will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation.”
Representatives for the line, which was founded in Milan in 1913, responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comment with the same message. Employees at the SoHo store could not be reached by phone.
Shortly after releasing the statement, the keychain disappeared from Prada’s website.