Scattered Clothing on Times Square Unrelated to Protest Against Zara

Illustration, Maida Salkanović/DALL·E

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 15/12/2023; Author: Milica Ljubičić

A TikTok video showing Times Square in New York City buried in clothes has been circulating with comments suggesting Americans are discarding Zara fashion items in protest.

“After Zara released an offensive advertisement about the war in Gaza, Americans threw out all Zara’s clothing in front of this company,” reads the caption in the video.

This follows a controversial campaign by Zara that sparked outrage among those claiming it insults war victims in Gaza. However, the video showing Times Square covered in clothes is actually computer-generated, part of a campaign by a British online retailer aiming to highlight the excessive waste produced by the textile industry.

Recently, Zara faced public backlash after launching a photo series titled ‘The Jacket,’ which many social media users (1, 2, 3) associated with scenes from the Gaza conflict. The Spanish brand was criticized for insensitivity towards the conflict’s victims, particularly over a photo featuring a model holding a doll wrapped in white fabric, reminiscent of images from Gaza showing casualties wrapped in white.

Consequently, calls to boycott Zara’s clothing spread across social media, with Palestinian activists in countries like Germany, Tunisia, and Canada protesting outside Zara stores and advocating for a boycott of the brand.

However, the clothing strewn across Times Square is unrelated to these protests. The video, first published on November 16, was part of a campaign by the British online retailer Vestiaire Collective. The scene, artificially created using AI, is part of a campaign disclosed in their announcements (1, 2).

The video depicts Times Square overwhelmed with the tons of clothing that end up in landfills each year. Vestiaire Collective released the video on multiple platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.

Besides Times Square, they also published similar scenes of clothing cluttering spaces like the area around the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the forecourt of Buckingham Palace in London.

Vestiaire Collective, an online retailer of luxury second-hand clothing, urges consumers to refrain from buying brands promoting ‘fast fashion,’ including Zara. Their campaign aims to raise awareness about the massive waste generated by the textile industry and excessive consumption in fashion. The campaign, now in its second year, seeks to adapt the fashion industry to a sustainable future.

“92 million tons of textile waste end up in landfills annually; it’s time for action. Hence, from today, we’re banning an additional 30 fast fashion brands,” the video description reads.

Zara’s recent ‘The Jacket’ advertising campaign, as reported by the BBC, featured models against backgrounds of cracked stones, damaged statues, and broken plaster slabs, with models holding dolls entirely wrapped in white fabric.

Following public criticism, Zara announced on December 12 that it would withdraw the advertisements that were claimed to resemble scenes from the war in Gaza, citing a misunderstanding.

According to their statement, the campaign was conceived in July and shot in September. “It was meant to be a series of images of unfinished sculptures in a sculptor’s studio, designed to display artisanal clothing in an artistic context.”

“Unfortunately, some customers felt offended by these images, and they have now been removed,” Zara stated, adding that they regret the misunderstanding and express deep respect for everyone.”