LONDON: Spanish fashion brand Zara withdrew an ad campaign featuring statues wrapped in white that sparked calls for a boycott and protests outside stores by some pro-Palestinian activists, saying on Tuesday that it regretted the “misunderstanding”.
People left tens of thousands of complaints about the campaign on Zara’s Instagram account, saying the images resembled photos of corpses in white shrouds in Gaza.
“#BoycottZara” trended on messaging platform X.
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Zara’s announcement illustrates the challenge for global brands navigating the sensitivities around the Gaza war. Zara is the first major Western brand to take such a drastic step after criticism for what some saw as insensitive advertising.
Zara said the campaign, which also featured mannequins with missing limbs, had been conceived in July and photographed in September, before the conflict erupted in October, and was meant to show unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio.
“Unfortunately, some customers felt offended by these images, which have now been removed, and saw in them something far from what was intended when they were created,” Zara said in an Instagram post.
The images were used “with the sole purpose of showcasing craftmade garments in an artistic context”, it added.
“Zara regrets that misunderstanding and we reaffirm our deep respect towards everyone,” Zara said.
The campaign sparked a furious backlash on social media where many said it was deliberately poking fun at the devastation in Gaza where Israel has waged a vast campaign since the October 7 Hamas attacks.
One message on X, formerly Twitter, superimposed a picture of a Gazan mother embracing the body of a child wrapped in a white shroud, with many users calling for a boycott of the brand.
A crowd of protesters gathered in front of a Zara store in Tunisia’s capital Tunis on Monday, chanting and waving a Palestinian flag, a video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed.
One of the store’s display windows was splattered in red paint.
Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority said it received 110 complaints about the Zara campaign saying the imagery referenced the war in Gaza and was offensive. “As Zara have now removed the ad, we won’t be taking any further action,” the ASA said in a statement.
Six posts showcasing the “Atelier” campaign were scrubbed from Zara’s Instagram page, and parent company Inditex said the photos had been pulled from all platforms. Zara had already pulled the photoshoot from its website and app home pages on Monday.
The “Atelier” collection, of six jackets, is one of Zara’s most expensive, priced from $229 for a grey wool blazer with chunky knit sleeves, to $799 for a studded leather jacket. The jackets were still for sale on Zara sites.
Inditex is due to report results for the first nine months of its fiscal year on Wednesday, with analysts expecting sales growth to slow slightly in the third quarter due to an unusually warm October in Europe.