Fashion is supposed to be suggestive. Two people don’t have to like the same outfit and that’s perfectly acceptable, but there are some fashions creations that should have never made it past the design phase. Sadly, more and more, fashion brands are creating items that are so far off the mark, it makes the public question what they were thinking.
Brands like H&M, Prada, and Gucci have come under fire for releasing items that are considered racist. In 2018, H&M released a hoodie labeled “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” Black people were often referred to as monkeys in a racist way because of the color of their skin, and for the model to be black as well, the hoodie was immediately seen and labeled racist. There were calls for it to be pulled off the shelves and for the boycott of H&M. Notable artists, The Weeknd immediately ended his collaborative relationship with the brand. He tweeted, “woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore…”
While most people called for a boycott, some people chose to take back the narrative by changing the words on the hoodie. NBA Player LeBron James changed the hoodie too, instead, he included a crown with a caption celebrating young kings.
H&M released an apology from their spokesperson, “we sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.” An apology was the least they could do, but they things like this don’t go forgotten.
Apparently, an incident like this didn’t encourage more fashion brands to be more cautious. Later that year, Prada released “Pradamalia” collectibles that strongly resembled blackface. Blackface contributed to the racist attitudes against Black people when non-black performers covered themselves with polish to darken their skin and exaggerated their features including outlining bigger lips. Though Prada claims to “abhor racist imagery,” there is no doubt about the strong resemblance with the collectibles and blackface. Prada did eventually take down the figurines.
Recently this year, Gucci has gone down the same road of racial insensitivity. Gucci released a turtleneck sweater that is strongly reminiscent of blackface. Once again, when people became outraged and offended, Gucci released an apology and claimed ignorance. This has become the playbook for fashion brands that made a “mistake.”
The apology did not seem to placate many people including rapper/actor T.I. He’s known to speak against injustices, racial or otherwise. He has called for a 3-month ban on Gucci that includes no buying and no wearing previously bought items. It’s a call to hit these brands where it hurts, their pockets. Rapper/Entrepreneur 50 Cent took to burning his Gucci clothes. T.I. also expanded the ban to include Prada. T.I. was apparently not lying when he said that going against this banned wouldn’t go unnoticed. He has recently made headlines for his diss track about
All this backlash would probably be avoided if these companies had more diverse employees. Any woke Black person seeing these designs would have known they would be considered racist. These may be Italian and Swedish fashion brands, but that is not an excuse. They make clothes for people around the world, and that includes Black people. That obviously needs to be remembered. Prada seems to have gotten the message, “going forward, we pledge to improve our diversity training and will immediately form an advisory council to guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion, and culture,” the label said.
Fashion brands need to stop getting it wrong and become more racially aware.