Gucci Becomes Next Brand Facing Criticism That New Campaign is Racist

Kaitlin Ryan, Staff Reporter

The Italian luxury brand Gucci is known for its bright colors and gaudy patterns.The company makes an effort to stand out against any competitors by retailing their items at extremely high prices, which catches people’s attention and gets them to talk about the marked-up products.

However, the recent attention that Gucci has been receiving is far from favorable. The company recently found itself in the middle of a major controversy after releasing a sweater depicting blackface.

The black sweater has an oversized neck that can be rolled up to cover a majority of the face, with the addition of bright red lips woven in, outlining the model’s mouth.

Branding consultant Kate Newlin said that Gucci’s decision to release such an item was “a desperate quest for relevance in culture,” stated a CBS News article. But why would a company choose to sell an article of clothing that resembles the racist makeup most notably and historically worn by white people in offensive theatrics?

It is common for a clothing company to release an outrageous item in order to gain attention. The backlash that follows is expected, and results in more people talking about the brand. Whether or not that publicity is positive, for the company, it is still publicity.

Communication professor Brent Brossmann teaches about this phenomena in his audience matters class. He categorizes Gucci’s decision to release the blackface sweater as “shockvertising.” Other clothing companies have been criticized in the past for using shockvertising as well. More notably was the H&M incident, when the brand put a young African American model in a sweatshirt that read, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” Last December, Gucci’s competitor Prada had a similar controversy of racism when they released purse charms resembling blackface imagery.

The Gucci sweater retailed at $890 before being removed from all physical stores as well as the online shop. The sweater has sparked heated conversation

Twitter user @berry_funny03 wrote, “You mean to tell me NO ONE saw the awful Blackface resemblance with this shirt? This is clear cut proof that there is a HUGE lack of diversity at #Gucci. Happy Black History Month guys.”

Gucci responded to the backlash by releasing a statement on Twitter that said, “Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper…We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning movement for the Gucci team and beyond.”

The general responses were far from accepting of Gucci’s apology. One Twitter user @salaamkamara wrote, “Gucci has a massively funded marketing team who are strictly employed to create new concepts & advertising ideas for the company. There’s no way I’m buying that they don’t know what blackface is or its history.”

The “balaclava jumper” can be pulled up to the eyes with the mouth visible through large red lip stitching. Photo from AP.