Madrid, Spain – December 12, 2023
Spanish fast-fashion giant Zara is under scrutiny for its latest campaign, released last week, as consumers draw visual connections between the ads and the ongoing crisis in Gaza. The campaign, featuring model Kristen McMenamy and lensed by photographer Tim Walker, has sparked controversy for its imagery reminiscent of the tumultuous situation in Gaza.
The photos, unveiled on December 7, showcase McMenamy amidst a deconstructed workspace filled with empty boxes, destroyed walls, dust, drywall, broken stones, rubble, and statues—some missing limbs and others wrapped in white cloth. One particular image of McMenamy holding a stiff mannequin shrouded in white drew stark parallels to a widely circulated photo from Gaza depicting a mother cradling her deceased child in a white cloth body bag.
The online community swiftly criticized the campaign, deeming it insensitive and, in some cases, intentional. Social media users expressed their dismay, with one tweet stating, “Even if it was a mistake — you’re not aware enough of current affairs to be working in marketing.”
LubnaHamdan, a Dubai-based editor, questioned the potential consequences for Zara’s franchises in the Middle East, emphasizing the financial impact, saying, “They make a lot of 💰 from us. And surely this is no coincidence.”
Zara responded to the controversy on Tuesday with a statement on Instagram, asserting that the campaign, titled “The Jacket,” presented “a series of images of unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio.” The statement acknowledged customer offense and the controversial images have been removed. Zara expressed regret for the misunderstanding and reaffirmed respect towards everyone.
Photographer Tim Walker, known for his fantastical style, has not publicly addressed the controversy. Fashion content creator ly.as0 acknowledged the unsettling nature of the images but suggested they were not necessarily a direct reference to Gaza. Another photographer named Tim Walker has clarified on Instagram that he is not associated with the campaign.
This incident is not the first time Zara has been embroiled in controversy related to Palestine. In 2021, a Zara designer reportedly harassed a Palestinian model online for supporting Gaza, prompting a public apology. Despite calls for her dismissal, the designer remains listed as a senior design director at Inditex, Zara’s parent company.