Featuring problematic imagery and equally problematic messaging.

By Balthazar Malevolent


Marni faced criticism for its recently released flip-flop campaign, which featured a variety of black women in distressed ensembles amid a series of similarly controversial statements.

Marni flip-flop SS20 campaign.

Unleashed on the world through Instagram and spotted soon after by Diet Prada, the pictures depicted models wearing a series of 'ethnic' pieces like woven grass caps, chunky wooden Bayong necklaces and piles of bangles – none of which were part of the new collection of the Italian label.

A model was pictured in a photograph - that has since been removed from Marni's IG page - with large chains close to her feet that, when you look very closely, looked like shackles. She had her skin decorated with clay patterns.

And when you think that it couldn't get any worse, it does. Completing the whole thing off was an email send-out featuring a series of pictures finished with statements reading "Jungle mood," "Barefoot in the jungle," and "Tribal amulet" which are obviously intended to express the atmosphere and themes of the flip-flop campaign, but only serve to reinforce outdated racial and colonial stereotypes.

Surprisingly, it was Afro-Brazilian photographer Edgar Azevedo who lensed the campaign art-directed by Brazilian-Italian Giovanni Bianco. In their own IG post Diet Prada put it: "Was anything lost in translation? More detail provided by the brand to clarify the vision and partnership with the photographer may have helped in this case, but it is needless to say that the damage was done when the marketing team agreed on those terms."

Marni has released a statement after deleting all signs of the advertisement from Instagram in which it apologizes for the hurt and offence caused by the advertisement, with Creative Director Francesco Risso also posting an acknowledgment on his personal IG page. Read the full statement from the company, and see the article from Risso below.

“What was intended to be a campaign that celebrated the beauty of the Afro-Brazilian culture through the lens of Brazilian photographer Edgar Azevedo had the opposite impact. Our oversights across the review process are unacceptable – and for that we are incredibly sorry.

The team at Marni is passionately committed to championing equity and celebrating the beauty of diverse cultures throughout the world. As we endeavor to create a more equitable world, through fashion and shared humanity, we sincerely regret that our efforts caused further pain. We have removed these images and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure our processes are carried out with thoughtfulness and intentionality through a strong equity lens. Our entire staff is committed to using this moment as an opportunity to leverage our platform to support and empower more voices and creators of color whose talent and insights are instrumental to creating a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry.”

In other news, Rick Owens isn't into doing anything halfway. The Paris-based California-born designer is known for some of the most controversial and envelope-pushing concepts in the fashion industry, with runway shows to suit. Yet Spring/Summer 2021 "PHLEGETHON" is another matter. The line, closely lensed by Owens himself, is a selection of repurposed pieces from the previous collections of Owens, accompanied by new designs and concepts.

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