Zara Head Designer Spars With Palestinian Model, Sparks Boycott Calls

Calls to boycott the major fashion brand Zara resounded across social media after a Palestinian model revealed an anti-Palestinian message that a designer allegedly sent in response to the model's pro-Palestinian posts on Instagram.

Male model Qaher Harhash said he received a controversial private message on Instagram allegedly from Vanessa Perilman, Zara's head designer for the women's department, in which she expressed frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She then reportedly said: "Maybe if your people were educated, then they wouldn't blow up hospitals and schools that Israel helped to pay for in Gaza."

Vanessa Perliman a head designer at Zara DM’d a young Palestinian model this racist garbage and when she was called out gave a lukewarm apology before deleting all her social media. I emailed Zara to demand that disciplinary action be taken and this was their dismal response. pic.twitter.com/eCJ6FUei2u

— Nooran A. (@nooranhamdan) June 11, 2021

Perilman allegedly added: "Also I think it's funny that [you're] 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."

Harhash posted screenshots of their conversation on Instagram, and social media users soon started sharing the hashtags "BoycottZara" and "ZaraMustApologize" and condemning the brand for Islamophobia.

He soon posted screenshots of a follow-up conversation, in which Perilman expressed her apologies after becoming concerned about the prospect of losing her job and the safety of her children.

Update from the Palestinian model @qaherharhash who was harassed by Vanessa...Zara reached out to him. He posted these screenshots. This was Vanessa’s “apology” that he didn’t accept that @ZARA wanted us to be okay with. @ZARA_Care this is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/qEYaAZA2gh

— Nooran A. (@nooranhamdan) June 13, 2021

"Why would you want to post something about me and my job?" she reportedly texted Harhash. "That's so weird. Someone just wrote me in Arabic saying they will find me and murder my kids."

She continued: "It's just so many people have been super mean at work and saying terrible things about Jews that i took it out on you and I feel really really bad."

In numerous separate messages, Perilman wrote, "I feel so bad" and "this is not who I am."

The last message she wrote to the model said: "If you want to keep your posts of me on your stories, that is your right but just know, I am literally getting death threats about my children now."

The designer reportedly deleted all of her social media accounts following the conversation. Harhash took to Instagram to say that Zara had asked him to share Perilman's apology publicly, which he refused to do.

"If Zara wants to make a statement with me, they also need to address Islamophobia. When certain fashion designers said anti-Semitic things, they were fired from their jobs." He added, "So far, Vanessa Perilman hasn't been fired."

Harhash added: "For me an apology means to fully acknowledge the pain or suffering you caused someone. She came into my DM's wrote hateful comments, why should I accept a half assed apology?"

Twitter users have since been calling for a response from Zara, which has yet to release an official statement on the matter. One user wrote: "Hi @ZARA , we wont stay silent about your head designer attacking Palestinian model for supporting #FreePalestine, instigating hate & vowing to defend Israeli crimes in #Palestine #Gaza, showing disgusting racism, Islamophobia & anti Palestinianism. Take action or #BoycottZara."

Hi @ZARA , we wont stay silent about your head designer attacking Palestinian model for supporting #FreePalestine instigating hate & vowing to defend Israeli crimes in #Palestine #Gaza showing disgusting racism, Islamophobia & anti Palestinianism. Take action or #BoycottZara https://t.co/aRXz8RX08c pic.twitter.com/PgiilX9X3P

— Omar Ghraieb🇵🇸 (@Omar_Gaza) June 13, 2021

Another tweeted: "Apology accepted? She spewed some real racist and Islamophobic venom there. Brushing it off as 'misunderstanding' is unacceptable, and equally racist on @zarausa|'s part."

A spokesperson from Inditex, Zara's parent company, told Newsweek: "Zara does not accept any lack of respect to any culture, religion, country, race or belief. Zara is a diverse company and we shall never tolerate discrimination of any kind. We condemn these comments that do not reflect our core values of respect for one another, and we regret the offense that they have caused. As a diverse and multicultural company, we are committed to ensuring an equitable and inclusive environment as part of our Company values."

Updated 4:14 PM ET, with a comment from Inditex.

Retailer And Luxury Stores In Berlin
A Zara store in Berlin. Calls to boycott the fashion brand came after controversial messages between a head designer and a Palestinian model were revealed. Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images