Gucci, the world’s large fashion brand, sincerely apologizes for an offensive sweater design which slammed by social media users for resembling a black face.
The luxury brand resorted in pulling its newest design off the market and on the company’s website following its apology on Twitter last Wednesday. “We can confirm that the item was immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores,” Gucci said in a statement.
The newly-designed knit top which is called ‘Balaclava Jumper’ is a black turtleneck sweater that can be pulled up over the bottom half of the face and with oversized red lips around the mouth. The sweater garnered a lot of attention in social media especially to Twitter users who claimed that it resembled a blackface and showed racist imagery.
One user said that the issue took place during Black History Month, where large brands like Gucci should empower black people rather than create offensive fashion trend which even heightens the disrespect among black people. Others ridiculed Gucci as a fashion house which lacks cultural diversity.
Gucci is not the only luxury fashion house which received backlash due to racial insensitivity. In 2018 ‘Prada‘ also removed its products in Manhattan after some items displayed believed to be racist. The merchandise items which showed monkey-like figures with black faces and large red lips was pulled after concerned individuals called the brand’s attention. The same goes for Dolce & Gabbana which canceled its Shanghai Runway Show and apologized after releasing a culturally insensitive video ad featuring a Chinese model trying to eat pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks.
And just recently, another racial controversy coincides with that of Gucci, which also drew criticism from the public, is a photograph from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who uploaded it on his page showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. The offensive depictions are connected to 19th-century minstrels who would paint their faces black to portray African characters and mostly to spread racial stereotypes.
According to Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University, the fashion world has been prosperous in addressing sexual norms, and Gucci played its part by redefining genderless dress codes under Alessandro Michele. However, it failed on other substantial issues-most importantly social issues such as climate change, women empowerment and racial sensitivity.
Although the luxury brand already apologizes for its action and social media users started to calm down, the long term impact of this racial incident to society, especially to those who are affected – will take time to measure.