Italian fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana have been called on by black fashion designers in Italy to make a pledge to eradicate rcism form, the fashion industry of the country. The brands have been accused of prioritising performative gestures only for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and and have actually done little to tackle discrimination closer at their home market.
Italian fashion industry leaders were requested to enact a plan of investment, education and monitoring rather than taking a tokenistic approach, urged a letter written by designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan, entitled “Do #BLM in Italian fashion?” The letter pointed out to a no black-owned fashion brand showing at Milan fashion happening earlier this month.
“Let’s change (from) roundtables on diversity and workshops on the theories of multiculturalism … into true work, true collaboration” the letter reads. “Only this will ensure that all of our constant sources of passive inspiration are transformed into valid and active agents of real change.”
Noted histories of featuring racist imagery are associated with many of the larger Italian fashion houses. That includes Gucci’s blackface jumper, Prada’s golliwog trinket and Dolce & Gabbana’s pizza advert which are noted as being infamous.
Despite this, there are allegations that the issue of racism is not discussed in an open manner in the Italian fashion industry.
There was “extreme fatigue” around the admission of racism in the country, Buchanan said in an interview to The Guardian in June. “But that doesn’t justify the constant denial,” he said.
There seems to be a re-occurrence of such incidents.
The demeaning and colonialistic imagery used for their SS20 collection drew severe online criticism for label Marni earlier this week. According to a commentary by Instagram account and self-appointed industry watchdog Diet Prada, the images comprised of a black model with chains who was lying suggestively close to his feet while another of the pictures contained the phrase “jungle mood” juxtaposed next to a black model.
These visual allusions prompted many to comment: “This is the worst example presenting black bodies through the white gaze.”
These images were later deleted by Marni and the label also apologised saying: “As we endeavor to create a more equitable world … we sincerely regret that our efforts cause further pain.”
If there was presence of more black people in senior decision-making roles, there would be less moments of gross cultural insensitivity such as these, suggested the letter from Jean and Buchanan. “Many of the mishaps and racially insensitive conversations that have happened in Italy are clearly due to companies not including black people internally from entry-level to executive positions,” it says. “The oversights are clear every time a major gaffe is made.”
The elephant in the room continues to be racism in the Italian fashion industry. Jean said.
“(I am) well aware that racism is one of the most uncomfortable topics in Italy,” she said.
“But trust me, the topic is not less uncomfortable than being the first and only black-owned brand in the history of a white-only fashion council (the current ratio is 1 out of 113) . We can all agree that the only way to dismantle the issue is to acknowledge it.”
There would be some changes put into effect by the next Milan fashion week, which begins on 22 September, she added she hoped.
(Adapted from TheGurdian.com)