You can’t make this up.
The Italian fashion brand Gucci has been forced to apologize for, delist and discontinue a black-knit women’s turtleneck sweater that allegedly resembled blackface.
Released as early as January as part of the brand’s fall-winter 2018 collection, the sweater boasted an attached balaclava designed to cover the lower part of a woman’s face.
The problem was that the balaclava looked awfully racist to some:
Note the red lips, which some allege match the lips seen on the blackface costumes used in 19th/20th century minstrel shows. Also note how stunningly ugly this sweater looks (more on this later).
The outrage over the brand’s sweater comes amid the controversy in Virginia, where multiple top-level political figures have been outed for having worn blackface during their college days.
While it’s unclear how and when exactly Gucci’s sweater went viral, by Wednesday it’d provoked so much backlash against the brand that it was forced to issue a public apology.
“Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper,” the company wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.”
Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.
We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.
Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/P2iXL9uOhs
— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019
The apology did little to temper the still-growing backlash:
No company is this tone deaf. There comes a point in time where SOME OF US need to realize that this is intentional. Gucci: No matter how much you rap about us, pose in your videos or insta pages with us on, we really prefer you don’t…we don’t mean to market to you..at all..
— Stacey Wilson (@Triswils21) February 7, 2019
@gucci you know what you can do with your apology and bullshit excuses. Clearly this issue is bigger than an ugly racist sweater. Do u not hire or staff People of color? Shameful no one staffed recognized this issue..designer..marketing and communication’s team, NO ONE. Pathetic.
— Cherries Tee (@CherriesTee) February 7, 2019
Really? this was intentional! Have they developed any products that resemble swastikas! No, because it’s hateful! Don’t support Gucci!
— Bourne Kim (@bourne_kim) February 7, 2019
this is a massive company how did no one have any concerns about this! Even the person that pressed upload to eccom lol. @gucci I’m wondering if you employ culturally aware I individuals or simply enjoy yes women & men around your creative teams? #BlackHistoryMonth
— Keith Harris (@Capriqorn7) February 7, 2019
If you hire more Black people and cultivate an environment where people on all levels of the company feel comfortable to speak up incidents like this will be avoided.
— The GLOWBOSS (@VanessaVeasley) February 7, 2019
So how many people did this get past before someone relaized it maybe wasn’t a good idea. It’s funny the companies are always apologizing after the decision makers think something so obviously wrong to the world is ok. Is it safe to say there are 0 American Black people staffed?
— Kay Mogul (@KayMogul) February 7, 2019
How many POC in your marketing, design & development department? How many focus groups do you use that even have POC on them? Do you not have any self-awareness? What’s next? breechcloth with beads & feathers?
— (((Lordy 🇯🇲 DocHolly🌊))) (@docholly) February 7, 2019
What especially irked critics — besides the fact that Gucci neither employs racial quotas nor runs every product by a black focus group — was that the brand had been selling the sweater during Black History Month. It’s almost as if it never occurred to Gucci employees that the sweater resembled blackface because, wouldn’t you know it, they weren’t obsessively thinking about race when they designed it.
The backlash hasn’t just been limited to complaints about alleged racism. Others have issued more arguably substantive complaints about the sweater’s objective ugliness.
Racism? No! Extremely ugly! YES!
— Tom Tscho (@tschoetsche999) February 8, 2019
What I find offensive is the price 900 we need to tax the rich if they are paying for 900 ugly sweaters..
— Natas (@Natas13669) February 7, 2019
@gucci that sweater is mad ugly. Take away the racist aspect. The whole concept/design ALONE was ugly… then charge $900? How did y’all push this piece of “fashion” past the initial brainstorming? 🤔
— Mo Staxxz ✨ (@xxMOstaxxz) February 8, 2019
I don’t see anything racist in it. I see a huge oversized neck that goes over the bottom of your face. I just think it’s a really ugly sweater.
— Christine (@christinetucci3) February 8, 2019
Omg people need to get over it. Like how do people associate a ugly ski masked sweater as a racial thing . seriously. Grow the fck up. Like people have nothing better to do with their time then making mountains out of mole hills. It’s ugly but nothing to do with race.
— mattie (@mhonkE3) February 7, 2019
It’s an overpriced ugly jumper.
— Lyn McAuley (@Lyn230) February 7, 2019
The fact that it didn’t occur to Gucci’s employees that its sweater might be perceived as racist isn’t surprising at all, since Gucci is a fashion company, not a “social justice” nonprofit.
What is truly remarkable is that the employees of one of the world’s top fashion brands didn’t realize that the sweater they had designed looked simply hideous, to be put it lightly.
The sportswear brand Adidas has faced similar racial-grievance-mongering-motivated backlash this week over an almost entirely white pair of shoes released to commemorate Black History Month:
Adidas was doing great with their UltraBoost Harlem Renaissance inspired shoes for black history month … but then … they released the UltraBoost ALL WHITE/COTTON sneaker for Black History Month, and confused the culture. Because of the Black Twitter backlash, pic.twitter.com/9nKd1D1KAI
— SyllabusMag (@SyllabusMag) February 6, 2019
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