Despite claims circulating on social media, a clip of discarded clothes in front of a Zara store in New York City's Times Square is unrelated to backlash over an advertising campaign that some deemed insensitive amid the Israel-Hamas war. Vestiaire Collective, a French luxury resale specialist, released the AI-generated clip in November 2023 to push back against fast fashion.

"After Zara made a disrespectful ad about the Gaza conflict, Americans are throwing away all their Zara clothes in front of the company," says Anastasia Maria Loupis, a Danish physician who has previously shared misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war, in a December 12, 2023 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The post shares a TikTok clip of what appears to be Times Square with piles of clothes on the ground.

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The claim gained traction elsewhere on social media -- including in Thai, Spanish and French -- after Zara released a campaign with an image of a model holding what appears to be a body wrapped in plastic.

Zara, owned by Spain's Inditex, the world's biggest fashion retailer, said the pictures were taken in September and that the wrapped figures were meant to represent unfinished sculptures.

"Unfortunately, some customers felt offended by these images, which have now been removed, and saw in them something far from what was intended when they were created," the company said in a statement published December 12 (archived here).

The retailer pulled the ads amid mounting calls for a boycott and online fury over the imagery's similarities to the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian territory have left entire neighborhoods in ruins and killed more than 18,700 people -- around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, according to the Hamas government's Ministry of Health.

Israel's air and ground campaign in Gaza began after Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack October 7, killing about 1,200 people -- mostly civilians -- and taking some 240 hostages, according to the latest official Israeli figures.

Israel's bombardment of Gaza has strengthened longstanding calls to boycott brands that support the country and sparked pro-Palestinian protests in Zara stores (archived here). 

But the video circulating online does not show such a demonstration.

A keyword search across social media platforms found Vestiaire Collective published the original clip on Instagram and TikTok on November 16 (archived here and here).

"With 92 million tons of textiles sent to landfill every year, now's the time to act. That's why, from today, we're banning another 30 fast fashion brands from Vestiaire Collective, including Zara, H&M, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Mango, Urban Outfitters, and Uniqlo," the captions say.

@vestiairecollective With 92 million tons of textiles sent to landfill every year, now’s the time to act. That’s why, from today, we’re banning another 30 fast fashion brands from Vestiaire Collective, including Zara, H&M, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Mango, Urban Outfitters, and Uniqlo. Ready to join the movement? #thinkfirstbuysecond♬ original sound - Vestiaire Collective

Vestiaire Collective spokeswoman Marie Tobaly told AFP in a December 13 email that a French agency specializing in AI created the video.

She said the clip was released November 16 -- "nearly a month" before the Zara ads -- as part of a company initiative against fast fashion and waste (archived here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war here.