Gucci advertised blackface as high fashion and failed

Gucci advertised blackface as high fashion and failed

Gucci advertised blackface as high fashion and failed
February 28
01:11 2019

By Kaycee Hubbard | Contributing writer

This year’s Black History Month has been a controversial one. After actor Liam Neeson’s shocking story about wanting to kill a random black man for simply existing, ongoing biased tweets from President Trump and the revelation that several politicians have worn blackface (most notably Virginia governor Ralph Northam), it almost makes me want to ask for a do-over for February.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, a prominent luxury clothing designer somehow found its way into the problematic mix.

Gucci recently faced stark criticism after social media users brought attention to a sweater from its fall/winter 2018 collection. Images of the sweater resurfaced as it distinctly resembled blackface. With social media in an uproar and celebrities speaking out in protest of the brand, Gucci quickly issued an apology and removed the $890 garment from its website.

Prada was embroiled in a similar dispute in December when its Pradamalia line featured racist figurines that were caricatures of blackface. These incidents may be shocking to some people, but they fail to surprise me.

For decades, every level of the fashion industry has had poor diversity, especially in terms of who decides what is “OK” and what is not. These decisions are typically allotted to small, exclusive groups who simply refuse to understand the racial, cultural and ethnic implications behind designs and how they may be interpreted by the public. Instead, these higher-ups are often written off as artistic and brilliant when their designs essentially mirror America’s negative historical representation of the idiotic, jovial black person.

Minstrel shows were an American form of entertainment where white performers dressed in black face paint with exaggerated facial features and characterized black people as lazy, foolish and jolly. These shows gradually dropped off during the 20th century due to the rise in popularity of variety shows, but the ugly, enduring influence behind minstrelsy has long since been ingrained into society.

Rappers 50 Cent, T.I. and Soulja Boy, previously strong supporters of Gucci, have all decided to boycott the brand in light of the sweater. Members of the hip-hop community have adorned themselves in Gucci clothing and accessories and have declared their affinity for the brand through music. To many in hip-hop culture, sporting absurdly expensive brands is a status symbol. What many have failed to realize until now is that these brands were originally created to serve a rich, white audience — and they still do today.

In order to appeal to the white upper class, these brands place a precedence on what is popular and desired by the masses. No people of color are helping to make decisions and as a result, they’ve produced offensive imagery of black people.

Italian luxury brands like Gucci and Prada claim ignorance when they release products that display racist or otherwise highly insensitive imagery. However, when the extensive process of approving designs so that they coincide with the designer’s vision is taken into consideration, it is hard to believe that these brands are unaware of what they’re doing.

Stereotypical racist depictions of black people are not high fashion, they are degrading and clearly display how so-called high fashion brands perceive African features and body types. Blackface is not to be capitalized on, it should be detested by all. The only way to eradicate the unflattering portrayals of African Americans is to stop giving money to racist brands that profit off black America’s history of pain and oppression.

Contributing illustrator: Frank Polk IV

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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