Donata Meirelles, the fashion director of the Brazilian Vogue, stepped down from her position on Wednesday following a week of backlash over her 50th birthday party, which many called racist.
In photos posted from her party, Meirelles sat in an ornate chair surrounded by four black women who wore clothing that evoked the traditional clothing that enslaved women in Brazil often wore; other white guests posed for similar photos. Critics pointed out that the party seemed to have a slave/master theme.
“The black women were used as objects to create an exotic scene,” Stephanie Ribeiro, the author of the #BlackGirlMagic column in the Brazilian Marie Claire, told The Guardian. “It’s reminiscent of colonialism and romanticizes those times. [Meirelles] was recreating the image where whites are superior and blacks are dehumanized.”
A day after the party, Meirelles apologized, writing that she had never intended to offend anyone, and that the event was meant to feature traditional Bahian culture. “Even so, if I caused any different impressions, I am sorry,” she wrote.
But after a week of criticism, Meirelles announced her resignation on Wednesday. A statement from Vogue Brazil quickly followed. The magazine apologized for the incident, and added that they hoped to learn from it. “Vogue Brasil profoundly regrets what happened and hopes that the debate that has been generated serves as a learning experience,” read the statement.
Meirelles reposted the statement to her Instagram account, writing that “at age 50, the hour is action. I’ve heard a lot, I need to hear more.”
In a statement to the Cut, Vogue Brazil’s parent company Condé Nast International said that they are “aware of the hurt and dismay caused by images of the private birthday party of Donata Meirelles, Style Director of Vogue Brazil.”
“Vogue Brazil has set up a working group of scholars and activists that will help the team to more deeply understand the history of slavery and the lasting pain it has left behind,” the statement continued. “As a company, we have zero tolerance for racism and images evoking racism. Condé Nast International is a force for positive societal change and stands for diversity and inclusiveness.”
This post has been updated.