Luxury Brands: Racist?

MiDeonna Owens, Contributer

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Have you heard about the Gucci ‘Blackface’ incident? Did you know that choice was made on purpose? The product at the center of the scandal is a black jumper that features a pull up neck with a cut out surrounded by oversized red lips. The price tag? $890. This seemingly harmless sweater caused countless conflicts online due to its resemblance of a black face. Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director spoke out regarding the brand recent controversy. Michele claims that racism was never his intention. He lamented over the pain he felt that one of his creative projects was seen as an insult to African Americans. Michele claims that the design was actually inspired by the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, who often wore flamboyant face makeup and costumes.

Alessandro Michele assumed full accountability for the conflicts and pain his design caused to others.   He said, “we are truly committed to facing what happened as a crucial learning moment for everybody.” He later announced that his employees will undergo and redouble its cultural-sensitivity training. Alessandro Michele’s words were enough to assuage the pain of some, but others accused the brand of being “too little, too late.” Many people on a variety of social media platforms criticized his cultural-sensitivity “training.”

One individual spoke out, saying, “cultural sensitivity training… as if an entire cultural existence/experience can be explained and understood in a one week seminar with croissants, coffee, and smoke breaks. Hire competent black professionals.” In an additional attempt to soothe hurt feelings, Gucci even started to throw out scholarships.  Let’s just say this was a lesson for brands across the world.

It has been a month of conflict for many major brands. Racially insensitive products have created tremendous backlash, and has put brands on the defensive. For example, go and Google Burberry’s ‘noose hoodie.’ A model walked down the runway at the Burberry show during London Fashion Week on February 17, 2019 in this hoodie. Burberry faced a crazy amount of backlash from people on social media. The designers chose to debut a hoodie with cords resembling a noose around the neck of the sweater. Is this really fashion? The sweater has been offensive in more ways than one, with critics saying it was insensitive to the prevalent issue of suicide, and the history of racist lynchings. Liz Kennedy, one of the models featured in the Burberry show wrote, “suicide is not fashion.” Liz Kennedy said she had asked to speak with someone about the hoodie but was told to write a letter instead. In another conversation about the garment, she said her opinions were dismissed. Burberry apologized and said it has removed the item from its collection.

In my opinion, I think these brands are doing this on purpose for publicity, and attempting to make the backlash go away with a simple apology. The unfortunate reality is that people will still buy from these luxury brands. This has happened before, with people still purchasing products from the brands. And it will happen again.  More and more things are brought to light in today’s society and, with social media being a big platform for speaking out, people are becoming more publicly opinionated.