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Image: Prada

“Prada Group is taking real and significant actions that will expand career and professional opportunities for people of color in the fashion industry,” Prada North America’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Malika Savell said in a statement on Thursday, specifically noting “the barriers to entering the fashion industry and the importance of representation.” The statement comes as Prada revealed that it will roll out internship programs, education modules, and scholarships for students of color, with Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group’s head of marketing and corporate social responsibility, saying that “this is just the beginning of the journey” that will see the fashion brand promote diversity and inclusion in its business activities, advertising, and products. 

The Milan-based brand announced that in furtherance of its “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within the company and the fashion industry as a whole,” it has developed and made “substantial investments in talent and educational advancement programs.” These new ventures include …

Prada’s new diversity-centric initiatives come over two years after the brand revealed that it would establish a “Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council,” an effort co-chaired by writer, director, and producer Ava DuVernay and artist-slash-activist Theaster Gates, and roughly a year after it was revealed that the famed fashion house had quietly reached a settlement after coming under the microscope of the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”). As was revealed in February 2020, the Commission has been investigating Prada in connection with the design and sale of an offensive figurine – the $550 monkey with “a strong resemblance to racist caricatures,” as Bloomberg put it at the time – that set the internet ablaze with fury in late 2018. 

In light of the brand’s sale of the monkey keychains and the intense consumer backlash that followed, the Commission initiated an investigation in December 2018, ultimately reaching a far-reaching and “highly unusual” settlement with Prada. That legally-binding settlement requires that Prada invest in restorative justice efforts to combat anti-Black racism and promote diversity and inclusion,” including by providing “racial equity training for all New York employees and Milan executives,” “develop[ing] a scholarship program for people historically underrepresented in fashion,” and hire a “senior, director-level diversity and inclusion officer [to] review Prada’s advertising and products sold in the U.S., as well as monitor Prada’s anti-discrimination policies,” among other things. 

While Prada did not specifically reference the settlement in its statement, Bertelli told WWD that he wanted to “underscore [that the company’s efforts are] not a reaction, as diversity has always been at the core of the company.”