Zara has expressed regret over a “misunderstanding” related to its ad campaign that faced criticism for using images resembling those from the Israel-Gaza war.

In response to social media backlash and complaints to the UK’s advertising watchdog, Zara has removed the remaining pictures associated with the campaign titled “The Jacket.”

The controversial images depicted a model holding a mannequin wrapped in white plastic against a backdrop of cracked stones, damaged statues, and broken plasterboard.

Some social media users drew parallels between these visuals and images emerging from the Gaza conflict, leading to calls for a boycott of the fashion retailer.

Zara clarified that the campaign, promoting its Atelier line, was conceptualized in July and photographed in September, well before the escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict in October.

The company explained that the images were meant to showcase “unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio” and aimed to highlight craftmade garments in an artistic context.

Despite Zara’s explanation, some customers perceived the visuals differently, prompting the company to issue a statement expressing regret for the misunderstanding.

The statement emphasized Zara’s deep respect for everyone and acknowledged that the images had been removed in response to the offense taken by some customers.

The incident follows a trend where companies face public backlash over advertisements with unintended associations.

In a similar vein, Marks & Spencer (M&S) faced criticism after an Instagram photo featuring Christmas party hats in the colors of the Palestinian flag on fire.

M&S apologized, explaining that the intent was to playfully depict the dislike for paper Christmas hats but removed the post following feedback and apologized for any unintentional hurt caused.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received 110 complaints about Zara’s campaign, and it is currently under review.

Complainants argue that the imagery references the Israel-Hamas conflict and deems it offensive.

The ASA previously received 116 complaints regarding M&S’s advert and its alleged insensitivity to the Palestinian flag.

Before the controversy erupted, Zara had described “The Jacket” campaign as an “exercise in concentrated design,” showcasing the brand’s creative and manufacturing capabilities with the Zara Atelier offering one garment in six ways, promising unlimited possibilities.

The fallout from this incident reflects the increasing scrutiny and sensitivity surrounding advertising campaigns, with companies having to navigate potential misinterpretations and unintended associations.

Last Updated: 13 December 2023