Story at a glance
- IKEA’s United States branch postponed the release of its annual catalog, now available online.
- The reason for the delay was a controversial photo of a Black model.
- The photo has since been replaced digitally and the company said it is removing the page with the image from the printed version.
A lot of work goes into the annual IKEA catalog that might be sitting in a stack of magazines on your coffee table or in a cabinet somewhere. This year, that work includes removing a photograph with racist overtones from each of the Swedish furniture giant’s already printed issues.
“After distributing the 2021 catalog internally, we discovered an image that could be misinterpreted. Our partners at global reshot the image in a more appropriate setting and all digital catalogs across the globe have been updated,” an IKEA spokesperson told Changing America in a statement.
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The page advertises IKEA's TaskRabbit furniture assembly service, but a detail on the model's Black t-shirt — a sequence of numbers — suggested serial numbers, alluding to prison uniforms and incarceration. The company said it “would prefer” not to share the image.
"The clothes were chosen only for the visual impression of the image and the numbers were intended only as a design detail. We understand that the image can be interpreted as reinforcing negative racial stereotypes," the IKEA spokesperson said.
In June, after the police shooting of George Floyd and subsequent protests, the company released a statement condemning racism and injustice and pledging to do more for racial equity. Since then, the brand, valued at about $19.5 billion, has committed $3 million towards organizations including the Equal Justice Initiative and 100 Black Men of America and established an internal council and training, among other initiatives.
“As a purpose-led organization where diversity and inclusion are core values, IKEA strives to be a force for positive change in society. An important part of advocating for change is acknowledging and taking action when we get it wrong. We are committed to doing so in an open and transparent way,” said the IKEA spokesperson.
Ahead of its anticipated release in August, IKEA Retail U.S. notified customers that the 2021 catalog would be delayed until further notice, but did not mention the image or any other reason for the delay. In a statement sent to Changing America, IKEA U.S. said they are not reprinting the catalogs but removing the image before making them available in stores later this year.
"We just need a little more time to ensure that we get it right," said the furniture company in a statement.
The catalog was released online today — marking its 70th birthday — without the image in question or any mention of it in the release. Instead, on page 133, a Black man in a plain white t-shirt is standing, holding an IKEA instruction manual and looking down on parts.
"You can assemble it yourself," the catalog reads. "But you don't have to."
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