Designers, fashion brands and artists like Gucci, Prada and Katy Perry continue to apologize for the creation of racist designs that have sparked controversy and discontent around the world. Gucci launched a black wool garment similar to a balaclava, with an opening at the height of the mouth red. Intentional or not, it gave the appearance of a blackface ; that is, it looked like the face of a person of African-American origin, which was interpreted as a mockery for that community. A similar incident happened to the singer and designer Katy Perry with her latest collection of shoes, which was branded a racist for also referring to a blackface , apparently because of an oversight in the design. In both cases, those responsible issued press releases accepting their error and apologizing to the African-American community.
Without a doubt, this is not the first time that companies in the fashion industry have to apologize for their designs, commercials or fashion shows for racist or discriminatory connotations, causing disgust and controversy. These actions question why these mistakes continue to be made if they have happened before. Some experts mention that these companies are in a social bubble where the lack of diversity of their teams does not allow them to be sensitized on the issues that afflict minorities. Another reason they see in this problem is that the fashion industry is facing an increase in pressure to supply their designs and products to stores and websites in a much faster way. Thus, production processes are rushed to the detriment of quality controls.
We are currently living in an era in which social networks like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are amplifiers of social voices. A tweet may cause the removal of merchandise from the shelves. Until now, most brands have carried out damage control more or less efficiently. However, it is not possible to know how long the apologies will be sufficient as damage control mechanisms.
Such was the case of Dolce & Gabbana when it had to cancel what would be its first show in Shanghai, China, after having published a series of racist videos and texts where they mocked this Asian culture. Despite having repeatedly apologized, the brand had to withdraw from several online shopping platforms and suffered losses in its biggest market, China.
Due to the example of Dolce & Gabbana, some companies have begun to recognize their mistakes and are trying to attack the problem. Gucci, for example, announced the hiring of a director of diversity and global inclusion, a position of recent creation whose objective is to avoid falling into these errors. For its part, Prada announced the creation of a diversity council with the intention of raising the voices of minorities in the world of fashion.
This industry must evolve to adapt to the social demands that are emerging today. You can expect any company that stays within, as the experts mention, a social bubble , to be destined to fall into the same mistakes. It is important to note that the fashion industry has not only been accused of racism, it has also been involved in scandals with NGOs such as Greenpeace for the use of exotic skins in their designs, and with issues of eating disorders due to criticism of the excessive thinness of the models that use the big brands. That is why the understanding of the environment that surrounds these industries now plays a vital role in ensuring success in the face of these controversies.
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