Zara Pulls Down Ad Over Gaza Parallels. Controversy Explained

Zara is no stranger to controversy.

Spanish retail clothing chain Zara was recently in the news after it faced backlash over the release of its latest ad campaign. Many on the internet stated that the photos in the campaign resembled the images of corpses in white shrouds in Gaza. Internet users stated that the fast fashion retailer mocked the destruction caused as a result of the Israel-Hamas war. However, the company has apologised and argued that the campaign was created months earlier.

Controversy

Zara’s advertising campaign called “The Jacket” featured mannequins with missing limbs and statues covered in white sheets from the landing page of its website and mobile application. The campaign also showed model Kristen McMenamy posing in the middle of what looked like rubble. Other pictures showed the model inside a wooden box. Although it aimed to promote six new jackets, however, cracked stones, damaged statues and broken plasterboard, caught the attention of the users. Some also pointed out that the ad campaign showing the plywood boards resembled the map of Palestine.  The ad drew flak from all quarters after pro-Palestine activists said it resembled images of Israel’s assault on Gaza residents.

Several users urged to boycott the brand and within no time the hashtag “#BoycottZara” started trending on X. More than 100,000 comments with images of the Palestine flag appeared on Zara’s Instagram posts about the photos. 

Further, people uncovered the earlier message sent by Zara’s head designer, Vanessa Perilman, to Palestinian model Qaher Harhash. “Maybe if your people were educated, then they wouldn’t blow up hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza. Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldiers as your people do,” Perilman said in 2021. 

Since the boycott began, protesters gathered outside Zara stores, spray-painting “Free Palestine” slogans on windows and staging marches inside the stores, carrying bundles of white clothes to mock the campaign’s imagery.

Zara’s Reaction

The fashion brand pulled down the advertising campaign and said that they regret the “misunderstanding”. Zara said that customers saw “something far from what was intended when they were created”.

They said, “After listening to comments regarding the latest Zara Atelier campaign “The Jacket”, we would like to share the following with our customers: The campaign, that was conceived in July and photographed in September, presents a series of images of unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio and was created with the sole purpose of showcasing craftmade garments in an artistic context. Unfortunately, some customers felt offended by these images, which have now been removed, and saw in them something far from what was intended when they were created. Zara regrets that misunderstanding and we reaffirm our deep respect towards everyone.”

Further, by 12:30 GMT on Monday, the pictures were removed from both the website and the app. The UK website had a link that went to Zara Atelier, but it showed the collection from the previous year. The current collection comprises six jackets, making it one of Zara’s priciest, ranging from $229 for a grey wool blazer with chunky knit sleeves to $799 for a studded leather jacket.

Previous Controversies

Zara is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, they released a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘White is the New Black.’ While the shirt was probably referencing the famous Netflix series ‘Orange is the New Black’ or a new fashion trend, some consumers were shocked by the graphic tee’s racist connotations. Two years later, the brand launched a unisex line called ‘Ungendered.’ It included comfortable loungewear and basic clothing staples. However, its “huge step forward for non-binary acceptance” drew flak after many called it a lazy campaign to sell basic clothing.

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