Racism in Luxury Fashion

It’s not surprising that there is racism in the fashion industry because of its long-standing history of cultural appropriation and diversity issues.

However, it seems like these past few seasons, designers have been overtly mocking Black people with their racially insensitive products that are reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.

Last February, Gucci made headlines and sparked outrage on social media for their rollup turtleneck sweater design that resembled blackface.

Photo from Whats the Word TV

The Italian fashion house ended up removing the $890 wool balaclava sweater from their website and stores.

They also released an “apology” stating that they were sorry that the sweater offended people and they were committed to increasing diversity through the company, which could simply mean throwing Black people a bone and hiring more of us to work at their retail stores to make up for the Black customers they’ve lost.

Until Gucci gives Black people a seat at the table and hires them to be on their design and marketing team, then I’ll believe that they are truly committed to increasing diversity.

I’m not the only person that feels this way.

Co-founder Marcus “Mars” Simpson of Only the Brave clapped back with a “paleface” sweater that depicts the stereotype of white people having thin lips.

Photo from Blavity

Garage Magazine reported that Simpson said he did not create the sweater to promote hate, but rather in hopes of increasing activism through everyday clothing and elevating dialogue about social justice in the Black community.

“When companies do things like this, I want us to feel like we’re in a position to fight back,” Simpson said.

Simpson also said that he initially felt numb when he saw Gucci’s tacky sweater.

“At first I felt numb because being a black man in America, we’re used to mistreatment. I was at a loss for words. Our people support and buy Gucci, so it was like a slap in the face,” Simpson said.

Simpson is absolutely right about Black people and our affinity for Gucci.

The company has become the brand for Black celebrities.

Beyoncé has been photographed so many times wearing Gucci that you’d think she is an ambassador for the brand.

She even did a full segment for her OTRII tour in a full Gucci look.

Beyoncé during her OTRII tour. Photo from Essence

Rappers like A$AP Rocky, Future and Migos incorporate not only Gucci into their wardrobes, but also into their lyrics as well.

Plus, we can’t forgot the rapper Gucci Mane whose name alone reflects his deep devotion for the brand.

However, there are some Black celebrities such as TI, Spike Lee and former avid Gucci shopper and accidental headband ambassador, Soulja Boy, who have called for shoppers to boycott the Italian luxury brand.

Soulja Boy talking with The Breakfast Club

Honestly, I don’t think a lot of Black people have cancelled Gucci because being able to buy luxury brands makes us feel like we’ve made it in life.

Plus, we (not all of us) are very showy and like to stunt on others because most of us didn’t grow up wealthy, and the old saying is true, money talks while true wealth whispers.

Marlo Hampton from Real Housewives of Atlanta. Photo from Straight from the A

This is why designers Gucci, Prada and Burberry feel comfortable putting out racially charged products to the masses because they know Black people will still support them.

Prada’s monkey trinkets
Burberry noose sweatshirt. Photo from CNN

To make matters even worse, it seems like brands are trying to profit off of the Black Lives Matter movement by writing a paragraph about how their company is against racism.

The only luxury brand, I’ve seen actually helping the Black community is ironically Gucci.

In a Facebook post, they wrote that they’ll be donating to the NACCP and Campaign Zero, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending police violence in the US.

Photo from Facebook

Gucci donating to these organizations is a great way from them to give back the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Black community has given them.

More companies need to go these route, along with having cultural and diversity training for its employees, a zero tolerance policy for racial harassment and hiring more Black people in corporate.

Many fashion companies depend on Black dollars to stay afloat, yet they design products to mock our unique and beautiful features and profile us in their stores.

It’s ridiculous that they think posting #BlackLivesMatter or #GeorgeFloyd will make up for the disrespect and the disdain they have towards us.

Our lives and experiences are more than just a hashtag and until companies actually start taking action to dismantle white supremacy, then their little posts and tweets mean nothing.

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