Gucci apologized and pulled a wool balaclava sweater from stores after critics accused it being “unacceptable” and “racist.”
The sweater, priced at £688 (~$893) featured a black turtleneck meant to be worn up and above the nose, with a hole for the mouth outlined with a design meant to imitate big red lips. The imagery, intended or not, is undeniably reminiscent of the anti-black mammy caricature, the most well-known and enduring racial depiction of African women.
Balaclava knit top by Gucci. Happy Black History Month y’all. pic.twitter.com/HA7sz7xtOQ— Rashida (@fuckrashida) February 6, 2019
First posted to social media by Twitter user @f*ckrashida, the sweater has been called “intentional racism marketing.”
All of the black community looking at this pic.twitter.com/4sPeVkYbHV— Joshua. (@_joshuaaaaaa) February 6, 2019
@gucci ah yes, black face but make it fashion huh?— Sea Shazzer (@TarteAuxLune) February 6, 2019
At this point they can’t claim ignorance. It’s intentional racism marketing— ᎪuᏆhᎬᏁ ❥ ᏆhᎥᏟᏦ 👑🇬🇩 (@XoKryssy) February 6, 2019
Am I being punked? https://t.co/EUcW2KMzki— rocket juju (@juliacraven) February 6, 2019
The red sambo lips blew that one sorry chief— Wesley Madison (@AddyMadison) February 6, 2019
“They have a mask to match so you can have a chic classic black face moment without the mess of paint,” added @f*ckrashida in a later tweet.
They have a mask to match so you can have a chic classic black face moment without the mess of paint pic.twitter.com/xe373cY4h9— Rashida (@fuckrashida) February 6, 2019
Gucci is also the highest paying tenant of trump’s properties so tbh they shoulda been cancelled lonnnggg ago— longest government slutdown (@earthw3rm) February 7, 2019
What tf is this?! 😵🤢ugly creepy weird on top of being offensive #Gucci what were you thinking— Tamsyn Blythe (@notimefb) February 7, 2019
Gucci tweeted an apology Wednesday night, writing that the brand “deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.”
Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019
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
“We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores. We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”
But Twitter wasn’t buying it.
@KayMogul wondered how many people approved the sweater despite it being “something so obviously wrong to the world.”
So how many people did this get past before someone relaized it maybe wasn't a good idea. It's funny the companies are always apologizing after the decision makers think something so obviously wrong to the world is ok. Is it safe to say there are 0 American Black people staffed?— Kay Mogul (@KayMogul) February 7, 2019
Along that vein, @VanessaVeasley suggested hiring more POC so that incident like this stop happening.
If you hire more Black people and cultivate an environment where people on all levels of the company feel comfortable to speak up incidents like this will be avoided.— The GLOWBOSS (@VanessaVeasley) February 7, 2019
If you hire more Black people and cultivate an environment where people on all levels of the company feel comfortable to speak up incidents like this will be avoided.
But others felt as though the move was intentional on the part of Gucci, who made it “just racist enough” to cause outrage and get Black Twitter talking, but “not racist enough to be indefensible.”
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.— Wakanda Shit Is That? (@unemployedfatty) February 7, 2019
Extactly my thoughts, they are jumping on the same bandwagon as @Prada and many other brands. It’s the laziest form of marketing. This isn’t about hiring more black people It’s really about any publicity is good publicity.— Pirate_4_life (@Pirate_4_life86) February 7, 2019
Great judgement by Gucci. Social media storm >>> free advertising. It is to fix the name 'Gucci' in the consumer's mind, as worked with Nike and Gilette after their recent execrable advertising campaigns, which haven't harmed profits at all. It's the way we live now . . .— Old Trout (@sit_come) February 7, 2019
Yeah right. This is worse than H&M lol. Clearly it shows there was nobody In the release process to let y’all know this wasn’t acceptable. OR there was and y’all ignored them. Not sure which is worse. Or the fact that you guys charge outlandish prices for consumer goods. Next— Ruslan (@RuslanKD) February 7, 2019
The idea of brands using intentionally racist imagery as a marketing tool is not a novel one. Dolce & Gabbana was kicked out of China last December after debuting their “Eating with Chopsticks” video series, which featured Asian women attempting to eat American food with chopsticks to a Mandarin-speaking voiceover intentionally mocking Chinese speech.