Miuccia Prada: “Anything One Does Today Can Cause Offence”

Photo: Future Image/D.Bedrosian/ullstein bild/Getty Images.
On Sunday, Miuccia Prada addressed the criticisms her brand was racist after displaying items in a Manhattan storefront that resembled blackface. “I increasingly think anything one does today can cause offence,” Miuccia Prada told WWD at Fondazione Prada. “There can sometimes be a lack of generosity but, on the other hand, how can we know all cultures? The Chinese protest, then the Sikh, then Mexicans, then Afro-Americans. But how can you know the details of each single culture so well when there can be 100 different cultures in every country?”
In December, after Prada pulled the figurines from its shelves, the Italian fashion house announced it would “improve our diversity training and will immediately form an Advisory Council to guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion and culture. We will also examine the processes that led to such a product reaching the market in the first place.” Prada also donated all of the proceeds from the Pradamalia ("blackface") line to a New York-based organisation committed to fighting for racial justice, which no other luxury brand has ever done in the face of similar controversy.
The hard part for Miuccia, as she told WWD on Sunday, “people want respect because now there is talk of cultural appropriation, but this is the foundation of fashion, as it has always been the basis of art, of everything.” She says she even questioned if she could offend anyone with her latest collection. “I talked about it with the Fondazione [Prada], with the intellectuals, it really is a problem — one would have to set up ‘secret societies’ — otherwise there is no progressive thinking,” the designer continued. “If you are not free to say things that may also not be correct and you have to be careful every time you open your mouth, how can you talk with freedom of thought? This really is a turning point. The world is bigger and I understand this and I also understand that people finally have a voice and speak up.”
It's frustrating that gatekeepers, like Miuccia Prada, say they see the point of diversity — in her case, opening a womenswear show with a black model for the first time in over 10 years, or putting The Black Image Corporation on view at Prada's cultural complex — and then say maybe the solution to true inclusion is to put a “secret society” in place. It's worth questioning her motives: is she just doing her part to avoid an angry mob?
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