Prada Leans On Diversity Council For Representation Following Blackface Crisis

Italian fashion house Prada is deepening its commitment to diversity, while increasing representation within the luxury fashion industry through new internship programs aimed at designers of color. The company is heavily leaning on its Diversity Council to divert attention away from any lingering blackface backlash. Sculptor Theaster Gates and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, are tasked to “elevate voices of color” as urban cultural influences on the luxury fashion sector expand. Can Prada’s Diversity Council help to close the massive gap between a post-racial fashion industry and today’s reality? 

The Breakdown You Need To Know: In effort to successfully carry out this new initiative, Prada is heavily relying on its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Co-Chair, Theaster Gates, to create a design lab for diverse designers and artists in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Many people have said the fashion industry has failed the Black community all while appropriating its culture. Case in point, Prada had come under fire for products and marketing seen as racially insensitive. In December 2018, the company displayed a monkey figurine that resembled blackface. There were no Black employees working at Prada headquarters at all during the time of the Pradamalia incident, according to The New York Times

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Through this new diversity council Prada wants to address these issues and create internship and apprenticeship programs in diverse communities. “Prada Group is taking real and significant actions that will expand career and professional opportunities for people of colour in the fashion industry,” said Malika Savell, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Prada North America in a statement.

CultureBanx notes brands should be worried because it’s estimated a company could lose up to $4 billion in market value due to bad media attention related to racism and sexism. That’s not the type of money Prada which has experienced declining sales since 2014 before returning to growth in 2018, can afford to lose. The Hong Kong-listed company’s revenues declined 24% in FY2020. Barring any other racially insensitive design sanfus, Prada notes digital sales were up 200%. Shares of the company have increased more than 10% in the past three months.

Fashion Faux Pas: Reconciliation with culture across the fashion industry has seen a huge uptick in the past year as the $3 trillion global fashion sector continues to struggle with whitewashed runways and executives.The issues with luxury brands and blackface don’t stop or start with Prada. Gucci made the same mistake with a Black turtleneck decorated with large red lips. Chairman of Gucci parent Kering Francois-Henri Pinault told reporters “Diversity is key to our collective intelligence.” They’ve already attempted to make amends with the hip hop community and Black designers by backing the genre’s original tailor Dapper Dan’s retail store in Harlem. 

What’s Next: As Prada looks to right their diversity shortcomings, the company is partnering with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to develop scholarships focused exclusively on aspiring fashion industry professionals and undergraduate students of color in the United States and Africa. No time frame has been given on exactly when the program will start.

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