Exterior view of the Prada NYC Soho location. The store had displayed ‘Pradamalia’ characters, which sparked criticism for resembling blackface and have since been removed from the storefront.Prada store accused of depicting blackface, New York, USA - 14 Dec 2018

Facing online accusations that animal-like figurines and charms in its stores and windows evoke blackface, Prada Group issued a statement saying it “abhors racist imagery” and vowed to withdraw them from “display and circulation.”

In a Facebook post, Chinyere Ezie, a civil rights lawyer, said the sight of the figurines in the Italian brand’s store in New York’s SoHo district had her “shaking with anger,” describing “racist and denigrating #blackface imagery” and “Sambo like imagery.”

Ezie noted she had just returned from a visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, taking in an exhibit on blackface.

“History cannot continue to repeat itself. Black America deserves better. And we demand better,” she wrote in her post, which got picked up by other blogs. “Shame on you Prada.”

In a statement, Prada said the figures are “fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre” and known as Pradamalia.

“They are imaginary creatures not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface. Prada Group never had the intention of offending anyone and we abhor all forms of racism and racist imagery. In this interest we will withdraw the characters in question from display and circulation,” it said.

Prada also subsequently issued a letter of apology to Ezie. In the letter, seen by WWD, Prada Group pledges to “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 said it would make a donation “to a New York-based organization committed to fighting for racial justice, which is a value that we strongly believe in. We will learn from this and we will do better.”