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Marni Issues Apology Following Accusations of Racism in New Flip-Flop Campaign

Marni has issued an apology following backlash over its newly released flip-flop campaign.

The Italian luxury brand came under fire early this week after Diet Prada called out its spring/summer ’20 campaign imagery, which it deemed “problematic” and alluded to “racist, colonial stereotypes.” Social media users also took aim at the fashion house in comments and other posts.

In a statement posted on Instagram, Marni wrote, “What was intended to be a campaign that celebrated the beauty of the Afro-Brazilian culture through the perspective of Brazilian photographer Edgard Azevedo came to fruition having had the opposite impact. Our oversights across the review process are unacceptable — and for that, we are incredibly sorry.”

The company has since taken down images of the campaign, which featured Black models wearing ethnic accessories like wooden necklaces and woven grass hates. One image depicted a Black model with chains near the feet, while another showed a Black model painted in clay.

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“Our entire staff is committed to using this moment as an opportunity to leverage our platform to support and empower more voices and creators of color whose talent and insights are instrumental in creating a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry,” Marni added.

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At Marni, we are deeply apologetic for the harm and offense that our latest campaign has caused. What was intended to be a campaign that celebrated the beauty of the Afro-Brazilian culture through the perspective of Brazilian photographer Edgard Azevedo came to fruition having had the opposite impact. Our oversights across the review process are unacceptable – and for that, we are incredibly sorry. The team at Marni is passionately committed to championing inclusivity and celebrating the beauty of diverse cultures throughout the world. As we endeavor to create a more equitable world, through fashion and shared humanity, we sincerely regret that our efforts caused further pain. We have immediately removed these images and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure our processes are carried out with thoughtfulness and intentionality through a strong equity lens. Our entire staff is committed to using this moment as an opportunity to leverage our platform to support and empower more voices and creators of color whose talent and insights are instrumental in creating a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry.

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Two days ago, Diet Prada shared images of the campaign and recalled the missteps made by brands like H&M, which sold on its site a hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” worn by a Black boy; Prada, whose “Otto” monkey trinkets were recalled; and Gucci, for a balaclava that was said to have evoked blackface.

“These stereotypes are just some of the ways the institution of white supremacy has oppressed, dehumanized and deprived Black people of their human rights,” the industry watchdog captioned its post. “For yet another fashion brand to reflect these tropes further proves the work that needs to be done to dismantle the pervasive racism throughout the world.”

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On Friday, Italian brand @Marni , known for its quirky, irreverent take on luxury fashion, sent out an e-mail blast for their new SS20 campaign. In the series of images, which were also simultaneously posted on Instagram, Black models are juxtaposed with some choice words evoking the season’s mood–“jungle mood,” “tribal amulet,” and “barefoot in the jungle” among others. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You might remember H&M’s “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” hoodie from 2018, which was photographed on a young black boy, and recalled a legacy of simianized representations of Black people as apes and monkeys. Ditto Prada’s “Otto” keychains which caused a scandal later that same year and in the months prior, an incident with Gucci’s blackface balaclava. It was a rough year for fashion brands, but it hasn’t stopped. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Marni’s new campaign is more nuanced, but no less problematic. With the models styled in a smorgasbord of ethnic accessories like Bayong wood necklaces from the Philippines, Caribbean woven grass hats, and other non-descript wooden jewelry (none of which are Marni), the images begin alluding to racist, colonial stereotypes of Black people as primitive, uncivilized, and unmodern people. One model is even painted in clay, evoking tribal bodypaint. In another image that’s since been deleted from the brand’s Instagram account, a link of chains near the model’s feet resulted in some terrible shackle-like optics. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It becomes a more layered conversation though, when you discover the photographer Edgar Azevedo is Afro-Brazilian. Meanwhile Giovanni Bianco, the art director, is Brazilian-Italian. Was something lost in translation? More context provided by the brand to explain the vision and collaboration with the photographer could have helped in this situation, but needless to say, the damage was done when the marketing team decided on those words. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ These stereotypes are just some of the ways the institution of white supremacy has oppressed, dehumanized, and deprived Black people of their human rights. For yet another fashion brand to reflect these tropes further proves the work that needs to be done to dismantle the pervasive racism throughout the world.

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