Gucci apologises after social media backlash over jumper people said resembles blackface
Gucci has publicly apologised after receiving an online backlash over a jumper some believed resembled blackface.
The black balaclava sweater, which was from their 2018 Fall Winter collection, caused an uproar on social media, with one user describing it as "Haute Couture Blackface for millennials". The $900 sweater featured big red lips that could be pulled up over the face, which many users thought looked offensive.
For those who are unaware, the term "blackface" refers to the act of people darkening their skin and exaggerating their features to look stereotypically "black" to mimic and mock the black community. The origins of blackface date back to the minstrel shows of the mid-19th century, in which white actors would darken their skin with polish, don tattered clothing and mimic enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. They typically depicted black people as being lazy, ignorant, cowardly or hypersexual, according to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Gucci described the sweater as being: "inspired by vintage ski masks, multicolored knitted balaclavas walked the runway, adding a mysterious feel to this collection. The Fall Winter 2018 runway show space reflected the stark environment of an operating room, emulating the theme of the collection where reconstructing materials and fabrics created a new identity."
The sweater has since been removed from their online store, with Gucci releasing the following statement on their social media:
"Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper. We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores. We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond."
Twitter users shared their thoughts on the controversial sweater online, with one writing: "So @gucci puts out a sweater that looks like blackface...... On Black History Month... And then issues an apology because they didn't know that blackface images are racist [sic]."
Another disgruntled user wrote: "So this is what we're doing now @gucci A #blackface sweater ???? First Prada, now you? [sic]"
Numerous comparisons to a similar incident concerning Prada have been made by users online. In December 2018, the fashion company came under fire for selling monkey keychains that many believed to resemble blackface. The keychain featured large red lips that many people said was reminiscent of racist caricatures of black people. Prada apologised and removed the product.
One user joked: "Of course @gucci made a blackface product, they couldn't have @prada cornering that market."
Another called for the brand to be "cancelled":
Despite their public apology and the removal of the item from their stores, Gucci is still receiving criticism online. Many users seem to believe that the item was purposefully made to be offensive to garner attention for the brand. One person wrote: "What a f*ck*ng lame apology. Who was the marketing mastermind behind this? Hmmm? Let’s make a blackface sweater and feign ignorance and see how many hits to the website we get. SOOOOOO TRANSPARENT [sic]."
Hopefully, the backlash Gucci has received will prevent incidents like this from happening again in the future.