Marni apologises for racist “Jungle Mood” campaign

Marni apologised for its inappropriate “Jungle Mood” campaign shoot but there’s more to it than racist imagery.

Marni logo

It looks like some brands have stopped “seeing us” if they ever did to begin with. Luxury fashion brand Marni apologised for its “Jungle Mood” campaign shoot that portrayed racist imagery of Black models in chains and in tribal regalia.

The Italian brand took to Instagram to launch the campaign with images including a Black man with what appeared to be shackles on his feet, Praia flip flops “powerful and shining like a tribal amulet” and “barefoot in the jungle”. A flurry of comments condemned the depictions and terminology, including blogger and model Natasha Ndlovu:

“Corona hasn’t even finished its world tour and Italian brands are at it again. And this whole ‘jungle mood’ terminology is so stereotypical jee zus ! Isn’t there a fashion panel that should approve images for brand campaigns? As a content creator brands are up my *ss doing approvals before I post content so why can’t an image that will be on billboards worldwide have the same background check?”

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On Friday, Italian brand @Marni , known for its quirky, irreverent take on luxury fashion, sent out an e-mail blast for their new SS20 campaign. In the series of images, which were also simultaneously posted on Instagram, Black models are juxtaposed with some choice words evoking the season’s mood–“jungle mood,” “tribal amulet,” and “barefoot in the jungle” among others. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You might remember H&M’s “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” hoodie from 2018, which was photographed on a young black boy, and recalled a legacy of simianized representations of Black people as apes and monkeys. Ditto Prada’s “Otto” keychains which caused a scandal later that same year and in the months prior, an incident with Gucci’s blackface balaclava. It was a rough year for fashion brands, but it hasn’t stopped. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Marni’s new campaign is more nuanced, but no less problematic. With the models styled in a smorgasbord of ethnic accessories like Bayong wood necklaces from the Philippines, Caribbean woven grass hats, and other non-descript wooden jewelry (none of which are Marni), the images begin alluding to racist, colonial stereotypes of Black people as primitive, uncivilized, and unmodern people. One model is even painted in clay, evoking tribal bodypaint. In another image that’s since been deleted from the brand’s Instagram account, a link of chains near the model’s feet resulted in some terrible shackle-like optics. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It becomes a more layered conversation though, when you discover the photographer Edgar Azevedo is Afro-Brazilian. Meanwhile Giovanni Bianco, the art director, is Brazilian-Italian. Was something lost in translation? More context provided by the brand to explain the vision and collaboration with the photographer could have helped in this situation, but needless to say, the damage was done when the marketing team decided on those words. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ These stereotypes are just some of the ways the institution of white supremacy has oppressed, dehumanized, and deprived Black people of their human rights. For yet another fashion brand to reflect these tropes further proves the work that needs to be done to dismantle the pervasive racism throughout the world.

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on

But besides the shackles and “tribal amulets”, there’s a lot of cultural appropriation at play. Diet Prada called out Marni’s new campaign with its “smorgasbord of ethnic accessories like Bayong wood necklaces from the Philippines, Caribbean woven grass hats, and other non-descript wooden jewelry (none of which are Marni)”. Oh, and Marni actually deleted the image of the Black man in shackles.

There’s also the question of the photographer, Edgar Azevedo, who is Afro-Brazilian. Was there a message amongst the sloppy copy or was it a promotion of racist stereotypes and appropriative garments? My issue with a lot of fashion brands and their campaigns is their intent is ambiguous, but their impact is harmful. I can’t imagine a better outlook for this campaign than what we’ve seen and I don’t see how it was appropriate for the times we’re in. The products don’t even look that nice and they’re the background props for whatever this campaign was supposed to be.

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