Campaigners claim that controversial decisions could have avoided if more black people were in senior positions
Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbanahave been contacted by Italian black fashion designers and had been accused of prioritising support for Black Lives Matter in the US over addressing discrimination at home by prioritising performative gestures.
Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan wrote a letter titled “Do #BLM In Italian Fashion?”. The letter asked the leaders of the Italian fashion industry to implement a plan of education, investment and monitoring instead of a tokenistic approach that saw no black-owned fashion brands show up at Milan Fashion Week earlier this month.
The letter states, “Let’s transform [from] roundtables about diversity and workshops discussing the theories of multiculturalism… into true work, true cooperation.” This will make sure that all our passive inspirations are converted into active agents of change.
Many large Italian fashion houses have a history of using racist imagery. This includes Gucci’s blackface jumper and Prada’s golliwog trinket. Gabbana’s pizza advert. Yet, there is a reluctance openly to address the underlying issues.
Buchanan spoke to the Guardian in June and stated that there was “extreme fatigue” around the admissions of racism in the country. He said, “But that doesn’t justify the constant denialism.”
These incidents continue. Label Marni was criticized online earlier this week for using demeaning and colonialistic imagery for their spring/summer 2020 collection. Diet Prada is an Instagram account that serves as an industry watchdog. It reported that two images showed a black model wearing chains that were suggestive of his feet and another that featured the phrase “jungle atmosphere” juxtaposed next a black model. Some commented on the visual allusions, saying that it was “the worst example of black bodies presented through the white gaze.” Marni deleted the images later and apologized for the pain.
Jean and Buchanan’s letter suggests that there would be fewer instances of cultural insensitivity if black people were in higher-ranking decision-making positions. It states that many of the scandals and insensitive conversations in Italy have been caused by companies failing to include black people from executive to entry-level positions. “The mistakes are obvious every time a major error is made.”
Jean stated that racism in Italian fashion is still a major topic of conversation. She said, “[I] am] well aware of racism being one of the most difficult topics in Italy.” Trust me, this topic is no less troubling than being the first and last black-owned brand in history of a white-only fashion committee (current ratio is 1 out 113) “We can all agree that acknowledging the issue is the only way to resolve it,” she said. She also expressed hope that some changes would be made by Milan’s next fashion week on 22 September.