After a rollercoaster of cultural appropriation accusations in previous year’s uproars, it seems like in 2019 luxury fashion brands have moved on to blackface as a preferred form of racial offence.
Gucci is the latest brand to aestheticise blackface (urg), following Prada’s lead with its ‘Sambo’-resembling trinkets released and recalled in December last year.
Gucci joining the bandwagon of reproducing racist imagery of black people honestly has us sounding like broken records. At this point these designer brands are taking turns on the racist train.
From Katy Perry’s "exotic design" shoe collection to repeat offenders, Dolce & Gabbana's chronic racism, we find ourselves asking this question once again: why do these brands keep missing mark?
The Gucci “balaclava” turtle necks do not go down well and Twitter users were quick to say Gucci should come correct:
If you hire more Black people and cultivate an environment where people on all levels of the company feel comfortable to speak up incidents like this will be avoided.— The GLOWBOSS (@VanessaVeasley) February 7, 2019
I feel like #gucci and all these companies know what there doing. They use “outrage” as publicity/marketing for more people to put eyes on their company. It seems like many companies such as h&m use this tactic for more publicity negative or not. pic.twitter.com/aIepsjCoVS— Big Head Sam (@BIGHEADSAM) February 7, 2019
Year after year, decade after decade, we have to continuously remind western conglomerates that the black community has to be respected socially, culturally and economically. Yet, here we are again, in 2019, raising issues of basic decency.
Sizakele Marutlulle, CEO and founder of Marutlulle & Co – a pan-African strategy and ideas lab – weighs in on the issue of Gucci and other like brands.
According to Sizakele, these brands “do not care about doing the real work of understanding rather than ‘chasing fads’… until there is a boycott, not Twitter uproar, the brands won’t change.”
Gucci was swift with its apology saying they have pulled the products from stores but some Twitter users were not convinced.
Y’all knew what you we’re doing.... so why apologize. As many Black artists that have sported and promoted your garments and bags over the years... We even gave y’all a Gucci Gang and Man. Leave us alone...also, stop apologizing for the racism you knowingly participated in. pic.twitter.com/KJdTuLil9p— James B. Golden (@jamesbgolden) February 7, 2019
So how many people did this get past before someone relaized it maybe wasn't a good idea. It's funny the companies are always apologizing after the decision makers think something so obviously wrong to the world is ok. Is it safe to say there are 0 American Black people staffed?— Kay Mogul (@KayMogul) February 7, 2019
“Apologies are often about ‘getting caught’ not about ‘causing offence’ so what is needed is retributive justice for those offended not a full page ad in the Sunday press,” says Sizakele.
“Gucci has been here before,” she adds. “They stole ideas from Dapper Dan and now have him in their ads as though there was respect all along. Please remember that not all people are conscious consumers, so others do not really reflect deeply about a brand’s purpose, messaging etc.”
“Boycott not burn stores, says Sizakele, “hit them where it matters”.
Black people does have economic agency, and while it may seem like a big ask for many, withholding financial support from commercial brands may contribute to enforcing accountability.
Do you have any ideas about what should be done about racist brands and their products? Chat to us here.
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