Head designer for Zara’s women’s department Vanessa Perilman is under fire after harassing Palestinian model Qaher Harhash in private Instagram messages. The messages were in response to pro-Palestine posts shared by the model, who later posted screenshots of their conversation on Instagram. The publicised exchange caused thousands of Twitter users to call out Zara for their lack of action.
In her hateful messages to Harhash, Perilman defended Israel’s war crimes, reproaching the Palestinian people and the Muslim faith in her attack.
“Maybe if your people were educated then they wouldn’t blow up the hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza,” Perilman wrote to Harhash, who is from occupied East Jerusalem. “Israelis don’t teach children to hate nor throw stones at soldier as your people do.”
The designer concluded her anti-Palestinian tirade with an Islamophobic remark. “Also I think it’s funny [sic] that your [sic] a model because in reality that is against what the Muslim faith believes in and if you were to come out of the closet in any Muslim country you would be stoned to death,” Perilman wrote.
After posting Perilman’s initial attack, the model shared a screenshot of a segment from a follow-up conversation between the two. Seemingly concerned about the prospect of losing her job, Perilman offered an apology for taking her anger out on the model.
Harhash took to his story to demand Zara apologise formally and denounce all Islamophobic and anti-indigenous rhetoric. Additionally, the model pointed out the hypocrisy within the industry in its reluctance to address Islamophobic designers despite taking quick action against anti-Semitic employees.
“They […] need to address the Islamophobia which is predominantly ignored by European society,” Harhash wrote on his Instagram story. “When certain fashion designers said anti-Semitic things, they were fired from their jobs at luxury houses.”
In another story, the model pointed out the inadequacy of Perilman’s apology as she continued to defend the Israeli perspective and failed to acknowledge the severity of the attack.
Harhash has since called on his followers to boycott the brand using the hashtag #BoycottZara, which has already been trending due to their lack of sustainability and questionable ethics as a fast-fashion brand.
As screenshots of the conversation gained exposure across Twitter, users condemned Zara’s complicity with the racist and Islamophobic comments made by the designer.
Thousands took to their keyboards, calling for the brand’s boycott and firing of Perilman as head designer.
Perilman has since deleted her social media pages following widespread backlash from thousands of users, many of whom also submitted official complaints to Zara.
“From the research we know that @qaherhar and Vanessa talked directly immediately to clarify the misunderstanding and it was closed on Wednesday,” Zara wrote in an official response to one complaint. “Vanessa apologized and @qaherhar has publicly accepted her spontaneous apologies, as you can see screenshot.”
This has been labelled “dismal and inappropriate”.