Even in 2019, huh? We’re still…?
In case you haven’t heard, Gucci is the latest brand to come under fire for racist products; this time, a turtleneck. Sounds harmless, right? Well, no. This sweater isn’t like any sweater, because this sweater that rolls up, lip level, to show large red “lips” most likened to the racist minstrel shows emerging out of the Ohio River valley. In these shows, white men, women, and children darkened their skin, exaggerated their features and entertained other whites, popularizing through these shows the demeaning of blackness and racist idolatry upon which slavery was built in America. Frederick Douglass called these blackface actors “the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.”
Funny, how we can relate this to fashion.
Fashion can be innovative. It can be amazing. It can be moving and can change the landscape of society. This, Gucci, is not it.
Too often is “high-fashion” a copy or mockery of black fashion; of clothes and trends deemed too “ghetto” to be taken seriously...until proven fashionable by slender models on a designer runway. Too often are cultures exploited by white designers gaining wealth and publicity for a style and a swag often misconstrued, often distorted by whiteness because there are very very few representations of ethnic cultures working within the walls of the institutions producing these luxury goods.
Diversity isn’t just a word, but often times it’s added to missions and company bylaws just for that little sprinkling of seasoning that adds a flavor and depth just necessary enough to continue to tap into black spending and the black dollar.
In 2017, Gucci saw sales growth of 4.6%, which grew by the first quarter of 2018 to 48.7%; the revenue totaling nearly $2.2 million, an astounding figure for a luxury brand considering its niche market. Since the collaboration of creative director Alessandro Michele and CEO Marco Bizzari, the company has very heavily invested in e-commerce, search visibility, social-media engagement and mobile aptitude, re-launching their website and actively engaging in social media. E-commerce for the company grew in triple digits, all thanks to the very deliberate revamp of Gucci’s digital platforms and online presence. And since his appointment in 2015. Michele has lowered the typical age of the Gucci customer thanks to his very ‘Gucci’ designs. When you look at the very bold, very loud prints and patterns in the company’s ads, or across its social media, you know it’s Gucci. And today, Michele has been very deliberate about marketing these distinct designs to a more youthful consumer. Today, Gucci is considered the “luxury fashion brand of the millenials.”
Millennials, who, according to a recent study, a third of whom attribute a majority of their fashion, beauty or style-related purchases to seeing someone else with the item first on Instagram.
Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee took to Instagram to urge fellow rappers to drop the brand. “Rappers, we need to stop wearing Gucci, man. They do not f*ck with rappers. All the rappers, we make that sh*t poppin. We need to stop wearing Gucci today man, do not wear no more Gucci. No more Gucci. Start the campaign, start the wave. I’m serious. No Gucci campaign. We gotta understand our reach.”
I love that.
We have got to understand our reach.
According to the Nielson Report, Black spending was up to $1.2 trillion in 2018 and is on course to reaching, $1.4 trillion by the end of 2019. Because, yes, while millenials may be the target market for Michele’s line, it cannot go unstated that Gucci has become synonymous with wealth and popular culture--popular culture which begins, always, as black culture. However, for an entire generation of young adults, Gucci inspires the same allure of social media: those double-G’s suggest a wealth and a lifestyle that we all want to have and to live, don’t we?
It’s the subtext.
So, now, Bizzari has apologized and the world has righted itself again, hasn’t it? Rappers have called for the brand’s boycotting, but have we? Or is it too much; too futile of a plea to get us as a youth and us as black people to boycott a brand that does not support my blackness but affirms my wealth; my status; my ‘I made it’ in society?
Today at Columbia University, Bizzari addressed the scandal.
“It was a mistake,” he said. “What happened was completely unexpected. And this is mainly due to the fact that despite all the efforts that we’ve made in the last four years in order to create diversity in the company, foster inclusivity, and all the rest, I think there is still a lot of ignorance in the company and the fashion industry about cultural differences.”
Is this an apology?
Or, was this?
Because, really? Gucci, this is careless. It’s tasteless. And quite frankly, it seems purposeful.
I mean, and of all months?
In the Business Insider, Julia DiNardo said last year that Gucci “represents excitement in fashion, again, it gives people something to look forward to, something to talk about.”
So, is that what this is? Is this turtleneck sweater, is this shameful mockery of blackness, something purely to spark discussion? Is this depiction of hatred and racism actually just something to talk about?
It's the catalyst for diversity, yes?
It's fine, right?
Hol' up, let me go ask Lil' Wayne.