Prada, Balenciaga and Gucci have come out with very offensive clothing causing controversy for the luxury fashion brands. Some offensive designs included cultural appropriation like a turban made by Balenciaga. Many have involved racially charged imagery. Other items are insensitive and feature disturbing ornaments like a noose replacing a drawstring on a hoodie. It makes you wonder was it on purpose or did they not understand that a noose could be controversial.
In December of 2018, Prada came out with a “monkey” keychain with a black face and large red lips in a style reminiscent of racist caricatures of black people. The high end fashion company tried to sell the figure for $550 but it was discontinued shortly after it was released. Prada came out with a statement claiming the figure was apart of the pradamagalia collection are imaginary creatures not intended to resemble blackface.
It wasn’t the only blackface controversy.
In February 2019, Gucci came out with what they called a “wool balaclava jumper.” this sweater was black and covered half the face and had red lips surrounding a cut out for a mouth. It was immediately compared to racist caricatures, and it didn’t help that it came out during Black History Month. The sweater was selling for $890. People were furious. Many concluded that Gucci must have few black employees for the obviously problematic design to get approved and marketed.
Gucci made an apology via Twitter and claimed that they would “make this a powerful learning moment” and “consider diversity and make it the forefront of every decision they make.” However, in September 2019 they made the news for another problematic design: a straight jacket as part of the spring/summer 2020 collection. In protest Gucci model, Ayesha Tan-Jones walked the runway displaying the message “mental health is not fashion” scrawled on the palms of their hands. A previous model walked off the job because be was disgusted by the clothing.
Fashion controversies can cause major problems for brands. Canadian singer The Weeknd was apart of H&M’s team. But then company promoted a sweater that said “Coolest monkey in the jungle” using a young African American model. Once the picture surfaced, The Weeknd explained that he was “deeply offended” and “embarrassed by the photo” and decided to part ways with the brand.
Fashion companies are often considered to have a sophisticated understanding of how clothing and design creates ideas and feelings. How could they get these designs so wrong?
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