Prada workers to receive racial sensitivity training following blackface merchandise scandal

The devil might not wear Prada, after all.

Luxury fashion brand Prada’s employees in New York City and executives in Milan will receive racial equity training and hire a diversity officer after a controversial display featuring racially insensitive merchandise was displayed in an NYC store in December 2018.

On Wednesday, the city’s Commission on Human Rights announced they had reached an agreement with the Italian fashion house regarding the incident, which occurred at a SoHo store.

Prada's now-pulled Pradamalia figurines, which had oversize red lips and appeared to resemble dehumanizing caricatures of black people or golliwogs.

Prada's now-pulled Pradamalia figurines, which had oversize red lips and appeared to resemble dehumanizing caricatures of black people or golliwogs. (Prada)

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Civil rights lawyer Chinyere Ezie said she was walking through the neighborhood in December 2018 when she was shocked by a "racist and denigrating" sight. Displayed in the window with small handbags were the brand’s monkey-like Pradamalia figurines, which had oversize red lips and appeared to resemble dehumanizing caricatures of black people or golliwogs.

Ezie’s Facebook post quickly went viral and many people called for a Prada boycott.

Though the fashion house apologized, Harper’s Bazaar reports, pulling the figurines and saying they were intended to reference blackface, the damage had already been done.

In a first for New York City, the Commission on Human Rights proceeded with holding a brand responsible for its imagery.

“We've approached this from the point of view of wanting to make sure this never happens again by putting in place measures to change the company culture," Demoya Gordon, the commission attorney who led the negotiations, told The Associated Press.

Though Prada has denied discrimination, the brand has pledged to "internal re-education, engaging in financial and employment outreach with minority communities, and submitting to external monitoring of its progress for the next two years," per The New York Times.

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Moving forward, all 120 employees in New York and senior executives in Milan – including head designer Miuccia Prada – will participate in the racial equity training, and report back on their progress.

In this Sept. 20, 2018 file photo, Italian designer Miuccia Prada smiles after presenting her women's 2019 Spring-Summer collection, unveiled during the Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. 

In this Sept. 20, 2018 file photo, Italian designer Miuccia Prada smiles after presenting her women's 2019 Spring-Summer collection, unveiled during the Fashion Week in Milan, Italy.  (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)

Prada also has been ordered to develop a scholarship program, and present the agency with the candidates for the new diversity and inclusion officer position within 90 days.

That officer is expected to review Prada's advertising and all products sold America – a vast undertaking.

The settlement continues to state that Prada must ensure its newly-launched diversity and inclusion initiative remains in place for at least six years, with regular reports back to the commission.

“We share the New York City Commission on Human Rights' commitment to ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented and respected, and we are pleased that our diversity and inclusion initiatives are aligned with their vision for a more equitable, inclusive industry," a spokesperson for the brand said in statement shared with The Associated Press.

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“With this momentum toward creating meaningful progress, we look forward to continuing and strengthening our diversity and inclusion efforts at Prada and across the industry,” they continued. "Prada is gratified to have been able to collaborate with the New York City Commission on Human Rights on a mutually agreeable conclusion."

A spokesperson for the fashion house was not immediately available to offer further comment.

As noted by Bazaar, the NYC Commission on Human Rights has also been in talks Gucci and Christian Dior for similar offenses, following Gucci’s blackface merchandise scandal and Dior’s divisive Sauvage campaign featuring Native American stereotypes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.