In Depth

Gucci withdraws ‘blackface’ jumper

Critics blasted Italian fashion brand over ‘balaclava’ polo neck with large red lips

Gucci has withdrawn a $890 (£688) women’s top from its range amid claims that the design mimics blackface. 

The Italian fashion brand faced an angry backlash after social media users shared images of the “balaclava jumper” - which pulls up over the bottom half of the wearer’s face, with a cut-out edged by oversized red lips at the mouth.

The jumper is no longer available in Gucci’s stores or on its website, where the product description read: “Inspired by vintage ski masks, multicoloured knitted balaclavas walked the runway, adding a mysterious feel to this collection.

“The fall/winter 2018 runway show space reflected the stark environment of an operating room, emulating the theme of the collection where reconstructing materials and fabrics created a new identity.”

As images of the offending garment spread across the internet earlier this week, commentators pointed out that Black History Month in the US “was off to an ignorant start”, says The Independent.

“I am a Gucci fan, and I was going to buy a jacquard cardigan because it’s a forever piece, but until they and other luxury brands hire some people of colour to consider the imagery of items like the ‘blackface’ balaclava sweater... it’s a no for me,” another person wrote.

The brand “was quick to pull the jumper, issuing a statement within hours of the first posts questioning it”, says The Daily Telegraph.

“We deeply apologise for the offence caused by the wool balaclava jumper,” Gucci said. “We confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores.

“We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organisation and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”

The controversy comes just weeks after Prada were forced to apologise after being accused of using blackface imagery on products in one of its new collection.

The products, part of the Italian label’s Pradamalia line, were axed “after images surfaced of some merchandise depicting monkey-like figures with black faces and large red lips”, reports CNN.

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