On December 7th, 2023, Zara, the renowned fashion brand, faced severe criticism following the release of an ad campaign for their new jacket. The controversial images led to the swift removal of all campaign content from the company's website and associated social media accounts by December 11th (see Figure 1).
The campaign drew outrage from Zara's consumer base, who perceived resemblances between the visuals and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, where Palestinians are facing airstrikes, resulting in the destruction of the city (see Figure 2).
On December 12th, Zara issued a statement on Instagram to address the situation. Some consumers do not have any problem with the campaign or Zara’s following statement (such as X user docjazzmusic who says they do not get a “Gaza feel” from these images and simply see it as “bizarre art). A significant majority expressed dissatisfaction, calling for a boycott of the company.
Comments on the Instagram post highlighted various perspectives on how Zara's statement could have been improved.The company explained that the intent of the campaign was to portray the handcrafted garments next to unfinished sculptures, but one commenter stated that “explaining the artistic strategy … is absolutely meaningless especially when it did not even start with an actual apology.”
Another user stated that the way Zara mentioned they have “the deepest respect for everyone” is insincere without mentioning Palestine. Former customers state that the phrasing “some customers were offended” minimizes the problem, shifts the blame away from the company and onto the customers, and does not address who was offended and why they were offended.
Despite varying opinions, protests ensued, both on social media and at Zara's physical stores worldwide, including locations in Canada, Sweden, and Madrid. Protestors employed imagery of white cloth body bags, recontextualizing it with blood on their faces to emphasize the gravity of the issue, asserting that such visuals shouldn't be deemed "art" during sensitive times. Calls for a boycott echoed in these protests.
There is still more context and history between Zara and its consumers that may be worth noting in order to understand the full nature of the latest calls for a boycott. Old messages from Zara’s head designer, Vanessa Perilman, are now resurfacing. Back in 2021, Perilman messaged Palestinian model Qaher Harhash with Anti-Palestinian sentiments. Some of Perilman’s statements include,
“I will NEVER stop defending Israel,”
““Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldiers as your people do,”
and “people in my industry know the truth about Palestine and Israel.”
Perilman’s full message to Harhash, which includes further aggressive statements, is still available on twitter. Zara has previously released a statement condemning Perilman’s behavior, and Perilman apologized to Harhash, but some people are unhappy with the fact that Perilman still works at Zara.
Understanding this situation can help us understand what the protestors’ demands are and what Zara may need to do in order to recover from this controversy. The top comment on Zara’s instagram apology states, “Not buying until I see you posting the palestinian flag with the caption #ceasefire.” The twitter user that reminded people of Perilman’s history claims that they will keep boycotting unless Perilman’s employment with Zara is terminated.
We can look to other companies and their stances on this issue to predict what might happen as a result of the calls for a boycott. For example, when Starbucks disagreed with their union’s pro-Palestine statement, people called for a boycott and stock prices have steadily been dropping since then.
Inditex, the company that owns Zara (and other related brands such as Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear, and more), has not seen any changes to its stock prices since December 7th. However, it may be too soon to assume that Inditex is unaffected, and more time will be required to analyze whether the calls for a boycott are effective or not.
Edited by: Matsoarelo Makuke
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