Amber Smith | Staff Writer
Flickr User Heidi Uusitorppa
The popular fashion brand Gucci infuriated many customers with its release of a black sweater which resembles blackface.
The black wool balaclava sweater – appearing similar to blackface, the practice of non-black performers wearing black makeup on their face in order to make a mockery of the behaviors and features of black people – arrived as an unappreciated, unpleasant surprise during Black History Month.
While some people say this was merely a lapse in judgment from the brand, others think this is an outward act of racism and have decided to boycott Gucci altogether.
“Mistakes like these are unacceptable in 2019,” Hampton University student Jada George said. “Although this shows that Gucci needs to employ more people of color so designs like these won’t happen, anyone with a basic-level education should have taken one look at this sweater and said ‘no,’ but the fact that it reached the approval to make it into stores shows that we have a bigger issue going on in our country.”
Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, told NBC News the company is committed to facing what happened as a crucial learning moment and that the design causes him grief. Apparently, the sweater was intended to be a tribute to Leigh Bowery, an Australian performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer known for his flamboyant makeup and costumes.
The controversial sweater, priced at $890, has since been removed from stores and online after being widely criticized.
“I feel like it was a lack of knowledge more so than them trying to be outright racist,” HU student Taylor Dotson said. “The fact that Gucci was able to release this shows that there are not enough black people on their team and the white people who are have a lack of knowledge.”
Since the design’s release, Gucci has come under great scrutiny and criticism from celebrities and fashion enthusiasts on social media.
Rapper T.I., a customer who spends tens of thousands of dollars a year on Gucci, took to Instagram to explain how he does not accept the apology from the luxury brand and called for a boycott of the brand until it learns how to respect its black customers. He even encouraged his followers to instead support black-owned fashion brands such as ServedFresh and Amir James.
“I feel like once this blows over, black people will be wearing Gucci again,” HU student Destiny McFadden said. “I don’t want to support Gucci, but at the same time, I’ve spent my money on it, so I wouldn’t just burn it. But I’m definitely going to support other brands instead.”