Two big names have come under fire recently surrounding separate releases which have been accused of incorporating symbols of ‘blackface’ into their designs. Blackface is a symbol of a history filled with racism, and has been outcast from most of modern society as it is seen as discriminatory and insensitive given its past.
Both Gucci and music performer Katy Perry have been criticised by the public as many saw their newest designs as having racist undertones. Gucci was the first to come under fire, following the release a balaclava turtleneck as a part of their fall/winter collection. The sweater was back and covered the wearer's neck and nose, with a cut-out mouth hole which was surrounded by red lips. The brand was met with an extreme response across social media, from consumers and peers alike. Perhaps one of the most significant responses came from Dapper Dan, a designer who collaborated with the brand only recently. The artist took to Instagram writing: “I am a Black man before I am a brand. Another fashion house has gotten it outrageously wrong. There is no excuse or apology that can erase this kind of insult. The CEO of Gucci has agreed to come from Italy to Harlem this week to meet with me, along with members of the community and other industry leaders. There cannot be inclusivity without accountability. I will hold everyone accountable.”
Perry was criticised for a similarly insensitive display. Two styles from the musician’s shoe brand have been pulled from stores as their designs have been seen to be representationing blackface. The Rue Face slip-on loafer and the Ora Face block-heel sandal where the designs under fire, coming in black and beige shades featuring a face like design which included oval eyes, a triangular nose and bright red lips.
Both Gucci and Perry have issued official apologies for their mistakes, citing misunderstandings as the cause of their issues. As to whether these apologies were genuine in their message, consumers have remained sceptical.
Social media has become a bloodbath for brands who have not properly researched or considered some of the social implications of their releases. According to consumers ignorance is not an excuse, and many do not accept the brands’ apologies.