By Shawna Healey
Italian fashion house Gucci has pulled a black polo neck knit with a red lip cut out from its Autumn/Winter 2018 collection this week, after receiving backlash in the form of accusations of racism.
Balaclava knit top by Gucci. Happy Black History Month y’all. pic.twitter.com/HA7sz7xtOQ
— Rashida Reneé (@fuckrashida) February 6, 2019
Black History Month in the United States has been celebrated every February since 1970.
This comes just weeks after Prada recalled their racist key chains following backlash. Both Prada’s key chains and Gucci’s balaclava knit top have connotations to the racist cartoon drawing, ‘Black Sambo’, from the 1899 book The Story of the Little Black Sambo by Scottish children’s author Helen Bannerman.
On Wednesday, Gucci apologised for the jumper via Twitter, stating: “Gucci deeply apologises for the offence caused by the wool jumper. We can confirm that item has been immediately removed from our online and all physical store.”
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
Some people are sceptical of the brand, with one Twitter user, unemployedfatty, saying: “Gucci made this item slightly offensive (just racist enough to cause outrage, but not racist enough to be indefensible) on purpose, so that Gucci could get black twitter talking about their item. Then Gucci came with the textbook apology after they got the attention they wanted.”
The balaclava knit jumpers aren’t new, however. Instagram’s hottest fashion account, DietPrada, brought it to people’s attention that these masks and jumpers were sent down a runway in Milan in February of 2018. This went seemingly unnoticed.
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Fashion can’t seem to learn from its mistakes. Back in February 2018, dozens of iterations of the balaclava walked the @gucci runway in Milan. Based on vintage DIY knit ski masks, no one clocked them at the time for having any racist connotations…or maybe they went unnoticed among the layers and layers of styling. Rihanna even wore one version just a couple months later at Coachella. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Last night though, a knit black turtleneck balaclava with red cut-out lips resembling blackface that wasn’t on the runway, caught twitter’s attention…and Gucci’s almost immediately. Within a few hours, they pulled the sweater from sale and issued an apology. All things considered, it’s probably clear now that these brands are severely lacking the cultural context and knowledge to avoid these same pitfalls. If these global brands are serious about their commitment to increasing corporate diversity, it needs to happen at all levels and departments, not just the creative teams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • #gucci #skimask #fashion #knitwear #blackface #blackhistorymonth #luxury #luxurybrand #europeanfashion #turtleneck #balaclava #diy #knittingpattern #vintageknitting #pinterest #pinterestfail #rihanna #milanfashionweek #mfw #mfwss18 #ss18 #dietprada
Later, in April 2o18, Rihanna wore a Gucci balaclava to American music festival, Coachella.
Perhaps if Gucci had more people of colour involved their design, construction and admin processes then this wouldn’t have happened… unless they wanted it to.