Spanish fashion giant Zara has found itself embroiled in controversy related to its recent advertisement campaign. The content has sparked public outcry, with critics expressing their disapproval over what they perceive as an insensitive portrayal of the predicament Palestinians have been facing in Gaza.
Since 7 October, more than 80% of the Gazans have been internally displaced by Israel’s relentless attack, leaving the entire region in ruins. According to reports, the death toll has exceeded 18,000, mainly comprising women and children. Every day social media is filled with harrowing images from the massacre, with Palestinians carrying their dead ones in their arms.
The scale of the casualties and destruction has raised significant concerns, drawing international attention to the ongoing situation in the region. Meanwhile Zara’s ad being similar to the scenes in Gaza led to widespread calls for consumer boycotts against the popular clothing brand.
Boycott Zara Trends Over Controversial Pictures
The advertisement was supposed to promote Zara’s “Atelier” collection. It showcased mannequins with absence of limbs and statues enveloped in white cloth. The arrangement bore a striking resemblance to images of bodies in white shrouds, reminiscent of the scenes captured in photographs from the embattled Gaza.
Social media users interpreted the photoshoot as gloating over the Palestinian casualties in Gaza. The photos portray a model emerging from debris with a bag containing a body in one instance, and in another, the model carries a body on her shoulder. Criticism on social media escalated quickly, with calls for a comprehensive boycott of Zara gaining traction among users.
Videos on social media also show protests erupting outside Zara stores in major cities like New York, London, and Berlin. Demonstrators held signs calling for a boycott and chanted slogans condemning the campaign.
Response from the Brand
Faced with mounting pressure and a potentially tarnished reputation, Zara responded by removing the ad campaign from circulation. It also acknowledging that offense it had caused and expressed regret for the “misunderstanding”. It also stated that the advertising campaign was conceptualized in July, with the photographs captured in September, drawing inspiration from historical men’s tailoring of past centuries. The company has refrained from providing any comments regarding the calls for a boycott.
This move, while seemingly addressing the immediate concern, did little to mend the deeper wounds of cultural sensitivity and ethical responsibility. The backlash highlighted the complex relationship between fashion, politics, and ethics. It forced a conversation about the power of consumer activism and the need for brands to be mindful of the context in which they operate, particularly when their actions might inadvertently touch upon sensitive social and political issues.
Zara’s response served as a reminder that simply removing an offensive ad isn’t enough. True progress lies in introspection, in learning from mistakes, and in actively engaging with diverse perspectives to ensure that future creative endeavors are not only aesthetically pleasing but also culturally sensitive and ethically responsible. Of course, the fashion giant has failed in that regard as it would not be its first anti-Palestine action.
It’s a Pattern
Palestine supporters have previously raised their voice to boycott Zara in 2021. The brand was once again caught in a controversy during heightened tension between Israel and Palestinian rebels, Hamas. The hashtag #BoycottZara gained traction on Twitter when a senior executive of Zara displayed anti-Palestinian sentiments. A Muslim male model leaked the conversion in which the executive responded with inflammatory remarks to his pro-Palestinian views. She defended Israel while blaming Palestinians for the violence in Gaza, West Bank, and Jerusalem.
That time The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) executed a devastating aerial bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the tragic loss of over 200 lives, including 65 children. While, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel, most of which were intercepted by Israel’s defense system. This attack claimed the lives of at least 12 people in Israel.
Adding fuel to the fire, Zara’s franchise owner in Israel hosted a campaign event for far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir in December 2023. Ben-Gvir is a controversial figure known for his inflammatory rhetoric and views considered discriminatory by many.