Gucci’s Blackface Sweater is Going to Take More Than Just an Apology

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Published February 20, 2019
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The Montclarion
Gucci made a sweater that received a lot of backlash because of its resemblance to blackface. Photo courtesy of barockschloss via Flickr

Gucci recently released an $890 sweater that resembled blackface. The turtleneck sweater has a pull-up collar with a cutout featuring prominent red lips.

Of course, Gucci has apologized and immediately pulled the sweater from the market. Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci took full accountability, even though he claims it was never his intention to make it look like blackface.

Now what I am wondering is, how did this pass through a whole team of executives? Apparently, the design of this sweater was a tribute for an Australian performance artist and fashion designer, Leigh Bowery, known for his extravagant costume designs and makeup.

Bowery’s work is very extraordinary and some might even say a weird style that includes a lot of overdrawn lips, full face makeup and a lot of colors. So why did the designers at Gucci choose a black sweater? At least make the sweater in different colors, right?

They also could have explained the intention behind this project. It is not entirely obvious that it was a dedication to the artist Bowery.

Let me explain how this blackface sweater made it this far. It is simply because of Gucci’s lack of diversity.

Gucci is an Italian luxury brand. You would not find one person of color in Gucci stores, even though it is known to have a huge demographic of black customers.

Take the rapper T.I., a loyal customer of the band for example. He was furious when he discovered the sweater and blasted it all over his social media. T.I. even recorded a diss track against boxer Floyd Mayweather, calling him out on his continued support of Gucci. In Mayweather’s defense, he does not understand how a temporary boycott will make a difference.

“Why wouldn’t we agree to a permanent boycott of Gucci as well as all other merchandise that fall under the Kering ownership, such as YSL, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and more,” Mayweather expressed on his Instagram.

I must say, I do agree with him on that stance. If they really want to leave a scar, then it should be a protest that tackles all businesses that fail to acknowledge their own racism.

T.I. and several other artists, like 50 Cent and Spike Lee, are now protesting Gucci, demanding they “respect our dollars and value our business.”

I do not blame them. Gucci’s lack of diversity and racism is the reason everyone is outraged. It is unacceptable to have something like this happen, and Gucci claims it was not their intention.

Intention or not, black people did not come this far for a high-end brand to be ignorant of African history and create something so offensive so easily. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. It is disrespectful and unforgivable.

Another thing I do not understand is how the sweater made it here to the United States. We concluded the Europeans have no insight on African history, but what about when these sweaters were put on the racks in the U.S.? No one took a step back and said, “Wait.”

It did not raise any question marks in any store in the U.S.? The only person who caught it was rapper T.I., and if it were not for him, these sweaters would still be out there. It is saddening.

Prada faced a similar issue back in December 2018. Their Pradamalia products depicted monkey-like figures with black faces and large red lips. An attorney, Chinyere Ezie, spotted the products on her way home at a Prada store in Manhattan.

She expressed her anger on Facebook and when the post went viral enough for Prada to see it, they replied back with another apology and then pulled the merchandise out of stores.

Yet another multinational, multimillionaire company that expects to get away with their pretend ignorance. Honestly, besides the fact that all these companies lack diversity, by now I just think they pull this kind of stuff on purpose.

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