It’s no secret that the world of high fashion has a tenuous relationship with representation and diversity, which makes the shock of Gucci’s latest fumble all the more palatable. Earlier this week the fashion company revealed a knit turtleneck-balaclava combo that, though on paper sounds like an item of wearable winter efficiency, in practice and picture reveals a new degree of ignorance and oversight that people online were quick to point out:
— Mikeisha Daché (@MikeishaDache) February 6, 2019
The black pullover, with large red lips covering the bottom half of the model’s face, is not-so-subtly reminiscent of blackface in a way that the company should be held accountable for being aware of – especially considering the product launched just in time for Black History Month.
We have ONE month to celebrate the history of African Americans. Feb. 2019: Multiple accounts of politicians wearing blackface. And now news Gucci was selling a $890 blackface sweater. We are a nation desperately in need of diversity training. #gucci #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/tHXEAP2pjN
— Michelle Singletary (@SingletaryM) February 7, 2019
In response to the near-immediate backlash, Gucci removed the sweater from all online and physical stores in addition to releasing an apology which stated that the company considers “diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.”
Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.
We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.
Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/P2iXL9uOhs
— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019
Despite the company’s efforts to right their wrongs and restate their commitment to diversity, many called out the whole fiasco as stemming from larger problems of ignorance within the company that a simple apology cannot address:
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
Gucci made this item slightly offensive (just racist enough to cause outrage, but not racist enough to be indefensible) on purpose, so that Gucci could get black twitter talking about their item. Then Gucci came with the textbook apology after they got the attention they wanted.
— Wakanda Shit Is That? (@unemployedfatty) February 7, 2019
Though the jury’s still out as to whether or not the sweater is a cynical PR move or a product of cultural ignorance, both scenarios still point back to a company profiting off of a long history a racial violence (at the absolute most inappropriate time of year to do so). Do better, Gucci.