Luxury fashion brands are known for taking design risks in order to separate themselves from their competitors in the industry. However, taking risks in all the wrong ways can lead to backlash and uproar. This proved true for one of Gucci’s newest items.
Gucci has pulled a $890 sweater from its stores and issued an apology after social media users were infuriated with its resemblance to blackface.
The black sweater includes a turtle neck designed to be pulled over the mouth. The piece features bright red oversized lips resembling blackface makeup where the wearer's mouth would go.
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by non-black performers in the mid-19th century to represent a caricature of a black person. White performers darkened their skin with polish, wore torn clothing and exaggerated their physical features by making their lips large and red.
These performances mimicked enslaved Africans on plantations and depicted African Americans as lazy, ignorant or hypersexual. Blackface was racist and offensive in the mid-19th century, and it still is today.
Gucci later apologized for the sweater with a statement on Twitter, but it doesn't matter.
Despite its buzzword-filled response praising diversity and inclusion, Gucci has shown itself to be a company that doesn't value black voices enough to include them in the conversation. If diversity is on the forefront of every decision, then the decisions should be made by those from diverse backgrounds.
Gucci clearly does not consider diversity to be a fundamental value of its company, and it doesn't respect it with every decision they make. It seems to be common sense that you do not reap profit off of an disrespectful and racist act.
I am a fashion design student at IU, and I have never accidentally implemented blackface in one of my designs. It's not that hard.
There is no accidental way to do this. Blackface is such a disrespectful and hurtful part of the past that its characteristics are impossible to misinterpret.
Gucci is not the only company or brand that has received backlash for horrific items that depict blackface. Katy Perry’s shoe line “Katy Perry Collections” was pulled from Dillard’s department stores and Walmart after facing racist backlash. Her Ora Face Block Heel and Rue Face Slip-On Loafers are decorated with faces that resemble blackface makeup.
It's been over a century. How can companies continue to be this ignorant to issues in today’s society? Blackface and racism have never been acceptable in any form, and for Gucci to attempt to appropriate it is absolutely beyond me.
The implementation of blackface makeup into so many fashion products is a serious problem that must be addressed. I believe this is a result of big business appropriating a sick and twisted past in order to reap profits.
When problems like this arise, only the consumer can have a direct effect on the issue. These luxury brands are in business to make money, and if consumers push back against these offensive products, the companies will be forced to apologize and re-strategize.