Facing mounting calls for a boycott, Spanish fashion brand Zara has withdrawn a controversial advertising campaign featuring body bags after it sparked online fury over its similarity to war-torn Gaza.
Addressing the controversy on Tuesday, Zara — which is owned by Spain’s Inditex, the world’s biggest fashion retailer — denied the claims but nonetheless removed the controversial images from its website.
“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,” said a Zara statement published online.
In one of the images, an anaemic-looking model holds what appears to be a body wrapped in plastic over one shoulder, while in another the shrouded shape lies at her feet as she stands on a set featuring chunks of rubble, broken walls and other signs of destruction.
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.
In response, Zara said its advertising campaign “was conceived in July and photographed in September”.
The idea, it said, was to present “a series of images of unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio and was created with the sole purpose of showcasing craft-made garments in an artistic context”.
It expressed regret for the “misunderstanding” and reiterated its “deep respect towards everyone”.
At the start of the Gaza war, Inditex said it was temporarily closing its 84 Zara shops in Israel until further notice.
The war began on October 7 when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping some 240 others, according to an Israeli count.
Israel has hit back with a massive military assault on Gaza that its Hamas-run health ministry says has now killed more than 18,400 people, including thousands of women and children.