If only Adidas & Gucci took a page out of D&G and H&M’s book. I’m sure we all wouldn’t be sipping, this tea of PR déjà vu, we’ve oh so seen before.
How many times can the fashion industry slip up when it comes to racism? In today’s day and age where no mistake is invisible, and the fashion industry has evolved into a body somewhat closer to the image of diversity, why do these leading fashion innovators continue to make errors, huge enough to provoke a storm of controversy across the nation?
That’s exactly what not one but two cult brands of fashion’s nearest and dearest did last week, when Gucci launched an $880 jumper undoubtedly similar to a racist figurine which plagued the 1970’s. Adidas then subsequently launched an all white ‘UltraBOOST‘ trainer, which flaunted a completely white body, with the only traces of colour being a black sole. It all couldn’t come at a more convenient time, as the world began to honour Black History month – props for the timing?
Gucci’s balaclava jumper referenced familiar imagery of the ‘Golliwog‘, also known simply as a ‘Golly’ which was originally a book character created by American born but British heritage author Florence Kate Upton, during the 19th century where racism was still at it’s all time prime. Presented as a ‘rag doll’, it was hugely popular throughout the UK and Australia, then wide-spreading across Europe in the 1970’s, with it being estimated most average families in the UK owned one. The doll depicted an incredibly exaggerated dark-skinned individual, with bright white eyes, enlarged red lips, and a huge ‘afro’ inspired hair. Thousands were outraged across the globe as you understand, as this doll was created on a racist premise by someone not of colour. The appearance of the ‘Golly’ was largely exaggerated and presents a dark-skinned individual, in a comedic and unflattering aspect, rooting back to decades of racism and colonisation.
However, in Adidas’ partial defence, the brand did launch their inventory to honour Black History month. Which is more than what some brands do to say the least when it comes to putting in an ‘E’ for effort, in terms of remembering memorials and history. Which puts us all in a box of questions and forgiveness, as to whether this was a genuine PR & Design mistake. Many took to Twitter to label the design as referencing ‘white supremacy’, expressing thoughts that the design displayed the essence that people of colour will always be the bottom racial social group in our society. It arguably could be farfetched, however, I think everyone can understand where and why these perspectives were arising.
I think something we can all agree on is that ‘diversity’ has not yet reached a skin-deep status. By that, I mean many brands are proclaiming and putting out imagery of having a diverse front, but it only goes so deep as a point many raise is that if the office, production team and PR team were indeed as diverse as the modelling and representation then these mistakes would not occur.
Moving forward brands could definitely take tips from Nike, who like many other brands have appointed a ‘head of diversity and inclusion’, whose prime role is to manage and prevent situations such as this from happening.
Also maybe if brands listened to their audiences more, understood who we were and why we love them exactly, we all wouldn’t be in this pool of problems. I know myself and many other POC’s, marginalised communities and allies love Gucci and Adidas alike. Equal to such as stars who have made a career from simply uttering the word ‘Gucci’ such as Florida native rapper ‘Lil Pump’, or even rappers who have adopted ‘Gucci’ into their professionally known name such as Atlanta originated rapper ‘Gucci Mane’, which unquestionably shows the respect and admiration everyone has for the brand. While Adidas is arguably the most worn brand alongside ‘Nike’ for British demographic youths aged 12+. So for our sake Adidas and Gucci – and other brands we regularly buy into, follow and adorn, do better – for our sake.