Racism in the High Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is known for being cut-throat and exclusive, but the high fashion industry is a whole other level. People who consistently shop at the big-name fashion houses constitute the wealthiest population in the world. Although luxury fashion is socioeconomically exclusive, buyers come from all over the globe. Consumers don’t only constitute one race or ethnicity; therefore, it’s important that brands respect their consumers and their cultures. There has been an influx of racism in the industry, specifically the release of controversial products by Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Gucci. Although these are the latest accounts, these brands aren’t the first; Chanel and Balenciaga have also had issues in the past.


Dolce & Gabbana

In December, Dolce & Gabbana released a commercial called “DG Loves China” that was supposed to promote their first fashion show in China (the show was canceled, of course). The commercial shows a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza, spaghetti, and a cannoli with chopsticks as she is instructed on how to do it by a voiceover. This is supposedly trying to symbolize the relationship between the Italian fashion brand and its show's audience. However, the ad makes the woman appear “stupid” because she can't seem to eat the food with chopsticks, therefore insulting the Chinese people and their abilities. It also exploits the Chinese tradition of eating with chopsticks and overall lacks respect for China and its culture.


Prada faced backlash in December for their SoHo store display of monkey figurines depicting blackface. The trinkets were reminiscent of blackface characters from minstrel shows, with large red lips and very dark features. Prada apologized and proceeded to establish a diversity council afterwards. However, the damage had already been done. The display made black shoppers and onlookers feel attacked and uncomfortable, with many boycotting shopping at Prada.


Gucci is the latest brand to be under fire for a controversial design. Two weeks ago, they released a black turtleneck balaclava with a bright red lip cut out for the mouth. This product, once again, obviously resembles blackface. The brand claimed that their intention was to pay tribute to Australian designer Leigh Bowery, who was known for wearing bright red lipstick. Despite what the intentions claim to have been, the reference was certainly not clear enough to the general buyer population and received considerable backlash (and rightfully so).


So, why does it matter?

It’s 2019, so you'd hope that you wouldn't see products that make companies look like they’re blatantly in support of blackface and racism. These designs offend many people that shop at these stores, and consumers deserve to feel comfortable and confident in their relationship with the seller. Even if you don't consistently shop at luxury stores (which is definitely most of us), it doesn't mean that this issue doesn't still affect you! After the dark history of racism in the United States and much of the world, it’s extremely important that more care is taken to respect people that have been and are still affected by this history. It’s all about changing the culture so that no aspect of our society reinforces racist dialogue.