In Brief

Designers call upon Italian fashion houses to combat racism

Milan

31 July 2020

Fashion designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan have penned a letter arguing that Italian fashion houses have prioritised performative support for the Black Lives Matter movement in place of tackling ingrained discrimination within the country's fashion industry.

Titled “Do #BLM in Italian fashion?”, the letter calls upon brand such as Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana to commit to a plan of investment, education and monitoring to eradicate racism within the industry.

“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.”

A number of Italy's fashion houses have a history of featuring racist imagery within their collections and advertising campaigns. In 2018 alone, Dolce and Gabbana released an advert widely decried as racist in which a Chinese model ate Italian food with chopsticks, while Prada produced a “monkey” trinket that seemed to draw upon golliwog imagery. In 2019, Gucci produced a turtleneck jumper that featured large, red lips – a design whose resemblance to blackface was quickly picked up upon.

Jean and Buchanan's letter highlights that these incidents and others like them would likely become less frequent if there were more Black people in senior roles at fashion houses. “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,” they said. “The oversights are clear every time a major gaffe is made.”