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Miuccia Prada to get racism-sensitivity training after fashion faux pas

Acclaimed Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada and her executive team will receive sensitivity training after her namesake brand, fashion powerhouse Prada, was blasted for selling a line of figurines criticized for evoking racist imagery

Prada, her husband Patrizio Bertelli and company chief executive Carlo Mazzi will all undergo training as part of a settlement with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

"The monkey figurine from the collection evoked images of Sambo, a caricature that, over generations, has been used to mock and dehumanize black people. The display of such racist iconography manifests as discrimination on the basis of race, suggesting that black people are unwelcome," the commission said in a statement Wednesday.

The Human Rights Commission spent the last year investigating some of the company's business practices after Chinyere Ezie, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, alerted the city agency to the eye-catching "Pradamalia" merchandise lining the windows of Prada's flagship store in New York City's Soho neighborhood. 

Ezie on Wednesday praised the commission for holding Prada accountable for what she termed "haute racism."

New York-based attorney Chinyere Ezie shared photos of Prada's SoHo window display featuring the problematic figurines on Facebook.  Facebook / Chinyere Ezie

Prada officials apologized at the time of the incident in late 2018, saying the company "abhors racist imagery." They said the figurines in question were "imaginary creatures not intended to have any references to the real world and certainly not blackface." The fashion house also formed a council focused on diversity and inclusion.

Under the agreement with the New York City commission, Prada is required to provide "racial equity training" to all New York-based employees as well as executives based in Milan, Italy, where Prada is headquartered. The company is also to appoint a diversity inclusion officer, responsible for reviewing Prada designs before they hit the U.S. market.

Other measures are aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion within the Prada organization. Under the agreement, Prada is required to launch a scholarship program that will partner with Harlem's Fashion Row, the Fashion Institute of Technology and other fashion schools and organizations. The aim is to increase diversity within Prada and the fashion industry at-large. 

Understanding the "legacy of oppression" behind blackface 05:21

Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner of the commission's law enforcement bureau, called the terms "some of the most unique and progressive I have seen in my time as a practicing attorney."

Prada did not immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment.  

Miuccia Prada isn't the only fashion maestro to have recently waded into troublesome waters with controversial designs that sparked outrage and prompted close examinations of the cultures of some of the world's most prominent fashion labels.  

Gucci last February pulled a wool balaclava sweater from shelves after social media users said the design reminded them of "blackface." Dolce & Gabbana canceled a Shanghai fashion show after Stefano Gabbana, one of its designers, made offensive remarks about Chinese people on social media.  

Gucci last February pulled a sweater that evoked "blackface" imagery and released an apology after many called the garment racist. Gucci

Other non-luxury, non-Italian designers appear to have similar cultural blind spots. American pop star Katy Perry was in the crosshairs last year for selling sandals under her eponymous footwear line that some critics said reminded them of "blackface." 

And Banana Republic last year sold its own versions of a hijab, often worn by Musim women, that was mis-marketed, according to some critics, who pointed out that a model posing in the garment wore it with exposed arms, as opposed to covered arms. 

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