Gucci probably wishes they gathered a little more input on this sweater design before releasing it on the market.
We're living in an interesting and scary time in terms of equality. On the one hand, great strides are being made toward inclusion and fighting against pre-established gender and racial practices and institutions that have constructed modern society as we know it — with all of its successes and all of its failings.
But, on the other hand, we still have a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to developing the sensitivity necessary to see when something might be or clearly is racially problematic.
And as much as I hate "problematic" posts, I do think that people who are genuinely offended by this Gucci sweater's design may be on to something here. Just take a look at it and judge for yourself.
Yep. They just made a sweater with a pair of big old-red Sambo lips plastered on a black sweater. If you're unfamiliar with blackface or its sordid history, here it is in a nutshell: it was an "entertainment" medium in which white people, wearing dark makeup and exaggerated red lips depicted African-Americans as buffoonish cartoon characters. It established "Blackness" as some kind of moronic affliction and presented "Whiteness" as the more noble, intelligent, and wholesome antithesis.
Just like the "n-word", referencing and using blackface, especially to sell products, re-opens a lot of painful wounds from an awful place in American history, and when it's done for a reason other than trying to come to a deeper understanding, of course people are going to be upset.
And they expressed that outrage on Twitter.
Consumers started bashing Gucci for their poor choice in design. Many called it thoughtless, while others just couldn't believe the designer could be so "tone-deaf" and swore off of Gucci products for good.
This is really not a good look for a brand that has become the most name-checked label in hip-hop.
Others pointed out that this entire debacle could've just been avoided if Gucci just had a more diverse group of people working for them. Someone who maybe would've looked at the sweater and said, "Hey, this kinda looks like blackface, maybe let's change the design up a little bit?"
On the flip side, there were a bunch of people who saw "nothing wrong" with Gucci's sweater and felt those who were complaining about it were being a bunch of crybabies. I.e., just another example of the social justice crusade gone wrong.
Gucci ultimately released a statement of apology for the sweater and the company pulled the item from both their online and physical stores.
The fashion icon isn't the only clothing manufacturer to come under fire for racially tone-deaf clothing recently. Adidas immediately pulled back a Black History Month campaign featuring an all-white sneaker that celebrated "Black culture," the response was swift.
The athletic-wear giant apologized and issued a statement saying that they "did not reflect the spirit or philosophy of how Adidas believes we should recognize and honor Black History Month."
H&M also sparked outrage by featuring a young black model wearing a hoodie that displayed the text, "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" on it. Dolce & Gabbana angered the Asian community with an advertising campaign rife with Chinese stereotypes, Zara made an outfit emblazoned with the Pepe the Frog logo (appropriate symbol of far-right Nazi groups).
And who can forget this unfortunate Prada line of "Sambo" keychain attachments and figurines.
What do you think? Are clothing manufacturers and mega-companies dropping the ball when it comes to product testing and branding efforts before they widely release certain items? Are people overly sensitive? Or do they do it on purpose to make headlines?