MILAN — The Prada Group has added a new role to its human resources pool.
The Italian luxury company has appointed Malika Savell chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for Prada North America. However, her role is a global one as she will be responsible for developing policies, strategies and programs to help ensure diverse representation of cultures and perspectives at all levels of the company.
Previously, Savell was the director of cultural diversity-partnerships and engagement at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
In 2018, she was named to Event Marketers’ 35 Under 35, a list of the top 35 experiential marketers in the U.S. under the age of 35. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in media studies from Hunter College in New York and obtained her certification in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University.
Savell told WWD that her “responsibility is to implement new standards for inclusion, enhancing the company culture and global influence to ensure that the Prada Group continues to reflect the diverse world we live in,” strengthening an “authentic inclusive culture in all markets and departments.”
In addition to being a fan of the brand, Savell praised Miuccia Prada for “having always closely observed culture and society” and said that it was “a natural step” for her to join the group, and “build on what it was doing, connecting individuals and creatives around the world. This is a forward-thinking company.”
“Malika is a dynamic, impact driven leader and I am excited to welcome her to Prada,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, the group’s head of corporate social responsibility. “She brings a wealth of exceptional skills and experiences to Prada and I, and the entire executive team, look forward to working alongside her to strengthen our culture and diversity and inclusion efforts within the company and throughout the fashion industry.”
“Prada has done a great job in representation,” continued Savell, noting that the company employs 100 nationalities in 40 countries, and that her job will be to further develop the “infrastructure to leverage the people in place, through education, training and learning as a key part of this process. It is important to be accountable and make the necessary changes to progress.”
Asked to address Prada’s reaction to the online criticism the brand received in December 2018 that animal-like figurines and charms in its stores and windows evoked blackface, Savell said the company “did an exceptional job in recognizing [what had happened] and apologizing.”
At the time, Prada issued a statement saying it “abhors racist imagery” and vowed to withdraw the items from “display and circulation,” while explaining that the figures are “fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre” and known as Pradamalia. The brand nonetheless pledged to improve its “diversity training.”
Savell praised how Prada immediately “took the proper steps.” Those included setting up a Prada Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council co-chaired by artist and activist Theaster Gates and award-winning writer, director and producer Ava DuVernay. The council complements the work of Prada Group’s corporate social responsibility department, which has been focused on sustainability, scientific research and culture.
Savell, who reports to Prada USA chief executive officer Marcelo Noschese, will work closely with the council, continuing to provide opportunities for students of color and investing in scholarship, internship and apprenticeship programs. She highlighted, however, that the changes that must be made involve not only race, but also “age, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities — all areas where there is discrimination” and historical under-representation. “We must celebrate all voices and the uniqueness of people’s differences.”
“Over my career, I’ve been very fortunate in fostering strategic relations in different fields, from art and technology to food and fashion as part of the LVMH group, collaborating with activists, innovators and celebrities,” said Savell, who has worked with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Michael B. Jordan. “Engaging and inspiring, I’ve dedicated my career to building awareness and educational programs.”
Education, so that everyone is treated fairly, and training are essential, she continued, as is keeping the company abreast of global social awareness around race, culture and politics. Prada’s staff is going through D&I training, facilitated by the Perception Institute and through partnerships and apprenticeships with colleges and universities, as well as with the United Nations.