Zara pulls controversial ad campaign that critics said evoked Gaza war

A Zara shop in Barcelona, Spain, seen on December 11. Social media users have called for a boycott of Zara over its ad campaign that they said referenced the Gaza war.

A Zara shop in Barcelona, Spain, seen on December 11. Social media users have called for a boycott of Zara over its ad campaign that they said referenced the Gaza war.Albert Gea/ReutersLondonCNN — 

Zara has pulled an advertising campaign that provoked a backlash from people decrying what they said was a resemblance to scenes of death and destruction in Gaza.

The advertising images for a line of jackets, posted earlier this month to Zara’s official social media channels, featured rubble, ripped plaster and mannequins wrapped in plastic. One picture showed a model holding a mannequin shrouded in white, which social media users said was reminiscent of a corpse.

“The campaign… presents 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,” the Spanish fast fashion retailer said in a statement shared with CNN Tuesday.

“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,” the company added. “Zara regrets that misunderstanding and we reaffirm our deep respect towards everyone.”

The campaign was conceived in July and photographed in September, it added, before the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas fighters on October 7, which killed around 1,200 people. The Israel Defense Forces says it has since struck more than 22,000 targets in Gaza. At least 18,205 people have died and more than 49,000 have been injured in those attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Over the past few days, users of Instagram, TikTok and X have called for a boycott of Zara.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority has received 110 complaints about the retailer’s campaign, a spokesperson for the body told CNN Tuesday.

“Complainants argue that the imagery references the current Israel-Hamas conflict and is offensive.

“We’re reviewing these complaints (to emphasize, we are not currently investigating this ad) and as such we can’t comment any further at this time.”

Calls for boycott of Zara over controversial ad campaign reminiscent of Gaza war

One of the images from Zara’s controversial ad campaignFrom Zara

The photograph of the model holding the swaddled mannequin had been removed from Zara’s official Instagram and X accounts by Monday morning, but other images from the campaign remained visible for much of the day.

By Tuesday morning, all the images had disappeared from the firm’s website and social media accounts.

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This is not the first time Zara has faced calls for a boycott over the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2021, its chief women’s designer, Vanessa Perilman, sent inflammatory messages to Palestinian model Qaher Harhash on Instagram.

“Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn’t blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza,” a screenshot of Perilman’s message to Harhash read.

Harhash later posted more screenshots of messages from Perilman, in which she questioned why the Palestinian model had uploaded the screenshots to his Instagram stories, and said she had received threats against her children.

Perilman added she felt “terrible and “so bad” in a stream of messages. “This is not who I am,” she wrote. “I am so so sorry,” she added. “I really hope you can forgive me.”

A Zara spokesperson told CNN at the time: “Zara does not accept any lack of respect to any culture, religion, country, race or belief… We condemn these comments that do not reflect our core values of respect for one another, and we regret the offence that they have caused.”

Oscar Holland and Jordan Valinsky contributed to this article.

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