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Zara pulls ad campaign that critics said resembled Gaza destruction

A shopper carries Zara shopping bags in Paris. The fashion company said it regrets that some customers were offended by its latest ad campaign.
Cyril Marcilhacy
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A shopper carries Zara shopping bags in Paris. The fashion company said it regrets that some customers were offended by its latest ad campaign.

The fashion brand Zara apologized after its latest ad campaign, called "The Jacket," was widely criticized as tone-deaf and insensitive for evoking the destruction in Gaza.

Although the campaign was conceived in July and photographed in September, many customers felt the release of the photos last Thursday, during the war, was insensitive. The Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

In the ads, a model stands surrounded by mannequins, some missing limbs and others covered in white plastic shrouds, which critics said looked like corpses. Some drew a comparison between the cloth in the ad and a typical Muslim burial shroud.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza was launched in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed 1,200 people, Israeli says. Since then, more than 18,000 have died in Gaza, including many women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

In an Instagram post shared Tuesday, Zara acknowledged that some customers were offended by the images and said they have been removed from the website.

The company said it regrets the misunderstanding and that the campaign was intended to present "a series of images and unfinished sculptures in a sculptor's studio and was created with the sole purpose of showcasing craftmade garments in an artistic context."

"We affirm our deep respect towards everyone," the post continued.

The controversy prompted some pro-Palestinian activists to call for a boycott of the multinational retail clothing chain, the latest in a series of social media-fueled boycotts during the war. #BoycottZara began trending this week on X, formerly known as Twitter.

This is not the first time Zara has fallen under scrutiny for being anti-Palestinian. In 2021, the company's head designer for the women's department, Vanessa Perilman, was criticized for comments she made on Instagram to Palestinian model Qaher Harhash, saying, "Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn't blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza."

In a statement later posted online, the company responded that it "does not accept any lack of respect to any culture, religion, country, race or belief. Zara is a diverse company and we shall never tolerate discrimination of any kind."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Diba Mohtasham