Gucci Chief Executive Marco Bizzarri Meeting With Dapper Dan Over Blackface Sweater Disaster

Gucci blackface sweater.jpg

French billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chief executive and controlling shareholder of Gucci parent Kering SA, said that the Italian luxury brand doesn’t have teams to monitor designs and marketing materials for concepts that are offensive to African-Americans.

Personally, as a white woman, I take issue with that statement, because both the Gucci sweater and Prada trinket are racist to me, too. If a black person never said one word, I would find them racist, based on what went through my mind on seeing both designs. Pinault stated that teams do exist to monitor designs that might negatively impact Asians — which might be a reason for Pinault to just stop talking now.

Forgive me for being blunt, but the French were the third largest slave traders, behind the Portuguese and British, achieving that dubious honor with the staggering numbers of Africans delivered to Saint-Dominigue (Haiti) in the late eighteenth century. It’s safe to say that the French had a pretty cozy relationship with America’s slaveholders — the backdrop of the sensitivity of black and white Americans alike to obvious blackface references on today’s clothes.

 "Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper ... ,” the brand said in a statement. “We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond."

It’s reasonable to assert that today’s young designers can’t be expected to be attuned to every cultural sensitivity worldwide, and I imagine that not all of them are fully-apprised of the involvement of Europe in the transport and sale of captured Africans to America. My point is that the Gucci and Prada controversies are not another example of what I feel is a gross oversensitivity to topics of cultural appropriation in online popular culture. Blackface sensitivity is not hypersensitivity. It’s a recognition of racism when we see it.

“We didn’t understand the sensitivities of the African-American community, which is reflected in that mistake,” Mr. Pinault told reporters at Kering’s headquarters. “We can’t be content with saying we’re sorry.”

Gucci Meeting With Dapper Dan

Dapper Dan by Gabriela Celeste  for GQ Style

Dapper Dan by Gabriela Celeste for GQ Style

Gucci Chief Executive Marco Bizzarri is planning to meet with Dapper Dan and other African-American leaders during a trip to New York this week to discuss the sweater debacle. “"I am a Black man before I am a brand," he wrote. “Another fashion house has gotten it outrageously wrong,” Dapper Dan said in an Instagram post. “There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult.”

The renowned Harlen fashon designer and tailor originally gained fame knocking off Guuci’s logo in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before finding itself in the drivers seat when Alessandro Michele knocked off one of Dapper Dan’s designs in his own 2018 Resort collection. The two men signed a peace treaty with Dapper Dan collaborating with Gucci on a vintage hip-hop-inspired capsule collection. Then Kering stepped in to underwrite Dap’s new studio and atelier in Harlem, while making him the face of a special tailoring campaign. Gucci has also underwritten several art events celebrating black culture in Harlem and around New York.

As the former head of product development and fashion director for Victoria’s Secret, I recommend that Gucci load up a corporate jet with design talent and head for Washington, DC and a trip to the African American Museum of African American History and Culture. This will give them a complete understanding of the sensitivity of black face in America to progressives of every skin color.