The fashion industry is no stranger to controversies. We recall the brands and celebrities who made waves with merchandise that many viewed as insensitive, out of touch and non-inclusive. From allegations of cultural appropriation to tactless fashion gaffes, this has reigned supreme among many fashion houses.
Burberry’s ‘noose’ hoodie made quite a stir
During London Fashion Week in February 2019, the British brand made quite a stir by presenting a hoodie with strings around the neck that resembled a noose.
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Liz Kennedy, the model who walked the runway in the hoodie, slammed the style in a post addressing the brand and its chief creative officer, Riccardo Tisci. “Suicide is not fashion,” she said on Instagram. “Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either,” she added. Liz said she felt “extremely triggered” after seeing the design and felt “as though I was right back where I was when I was going through an experience with suicide in my family”. She informed her Instagram followers that she attempted to bring up the matter in the dressing room but was instructed to prepare a letter instead.
Burberry pulled the hoodie and Tisci apologised: “I am so deeply sorry for the distress that has been caused as a result of one of the pieces in my show. While the design was inspired by a nautical theme, I realize that it was insensitive. It was never my intention to upset anyone,” he said in a statement.
Following the incident, Burberry introduced additional diversity initiatives such as training for all employees and establishing “diversity and inclusion employee councils.”
Givenchy’s ‘noose’ necklace comes under fire after being likened to Burberry’s 2019 ‘noose hoodie’
The tale of luxury brands and their rising insensitivity is unfolding. Givenchy is the latest to enter the list of companies that should have thought twice before releasing these designs.
While ‘suicide is not fashion’ continues to be a fashion movement, French fashion house Givenchy made waves with their SS22 collection at Paris Fashion Week. While the collection was full of new creative aspects combined with the designer’s signature monochrome aesthetic, a specific necklace in the collection has sparked a buzz online when Diet Prada pointed out the accessory’s contentious detail.
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The Instagram account called out the brand, drawing comparisons between this repulsive necklace and the Burberry ‘noose’ hoodie from 2019, in which a model walked down the runway with a rope around her neck. Many models were wearing a silver necklace in the shape of a string with a loop in the front that resembled a noose which is similar to Burberry’s controversial noose hoodie. The internet is outraged by this ‘necklace’ that shows suicide as an accessory and Givenchy has yet to address this issue.
Gucci, the Italian fashion house chastised over ‘balaclava’ polo neck with large red lips
Beginning in February 2019, when it launched a ‘balaclava’ polo neck featuring a roll-up collar with a wide red lip outline, priced at $890 (Rs 66,000 approx.) that some thought resembles blackface, the Italian brand came under criticism for a slew of dubious appearances.
The response was swift on social media, notably from Gucci collaborator Dapper Dan, who turned to Twitter to voice his disappointment with the brand. “I am a black man before I am a brand,” he wrote. “Another fashion house has gotten it outrageously wrong. There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult.”
Users on Twitter and Instagram shared photos of the jumper, with many mentioning that it is Black History Month in the United States. “Balaclava knit top by Gucci,” one user tweeted. “Happy Black History Month, y’all.” Another cited the brand’s lack of diversity.
Balaclava knit top by Gucci. Happy Black History Month y’all. pic.twitter.com/HA7sz7xtOQ
— Cocolo Chanel (@evilrashida) February 6, 2019
The Italian brand issued an apology and announced that the jumper will be withdrawn from its website. “We believe diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make,” Gucci stated. We are completely dedicated to developing diversity within our organisation.
Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.
We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.
Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/P2iXL9uOhs
— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019
Despite the fact that the balaclava jumper has been withdrawn from all websites, the product information archived online reads: “Inspired by vintage ski masks, multicoloured knitted balaclavas walked the runway, adding a mysterious feel to this collection.”
Gucci’s accused of cultural appropriation over headscarf named “Indy Full Turban”
In 2019, Gucci was chastised for cultural appropriation not once, but twice. Despite making statements to foster cultural diversity and awareness, Gucci made headlines in May by selling a headscarf dubbed “Indy Full Turban” for $780 (Rs 58,000 approx.), which many on social media claimed was insensitive towards the Sikh culture.
The headpiece, which was sold on Nordstrom’s site changed the product’s name to “Indy Full Head Wrap” before withdrawing from the stores and sites. This headpiece was a part of Gucci’s fall 2018 RTW collection, the same runway that featured the contentious balaclavas.
Later, the Sikh Coalition tweeted its disappointment with Gucci and Nordstrom, writing, “The Sikh turban is not a fashion accessory, but it is also a sacred religious article of faith.” We hope that more can be done to recognise this critical context. #appropriation.”
The turban is not just an accessory to monetize; it’s a religious article of faith that millions of Sikhs view as sacred. Many find this cultural appropriation inappropriate, since those wearing the turban just for fashion will not appreciate its deep religious significance. pic.twitter.com/fldmxa3Wvr
— Sikh Coalition (@sikh_coalition) May 14, 2019
Despite the fact that the product sparked criticism, Gucci did not publicly apologise and did not reply to a request for comment on the subject. On July 30, 2019, Gucci expanded on one of its projects by naming Renée Tirado as its first global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Tirado will create, develop, and implement a worldwide strategy to promote inclusion and equality in the workplace.
Japanese fashion house Commes des Garçons Cornrow wigs spark cultural appropriation controversy
The avant-garde fashion house chose to use hairpieces that resemble classic black styles on white models during its men’s Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection fashion show in Paris.
Diet Prada, the fashion industry watchdog, was among the first to slam the brand of using “white models in cornrow wigs,” uploading photos from the show. Diet Prada noted that the fashion house had previously faced criticism “from netizens who noticed they hadn’t featured a black model since 1994.” The Instagram post added: “Last night, the avant-garde Japanese label seemed to have taken a step back with their men’s show, this time putting white models in cornrow wigs. Some black models also sported the wigs, while some wore their own hair.” It concluded by labelling the use of wigs as “problematic.”
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Julien D’ys, the hairstylist behind the wigs, shared a sketch of his original design on Instagram, claiming that the inspiration was Egyptian pharaoh hair rather than cornrows. In a separate post, he added that he found the “Egyptian prince” look “truly beautiful and inspirational”. “Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone ever … if I did I deeply apologise,” he continued.
Fashion industry stalwarts Daphne Guinness, Carine Roitfeld, and Steven Klein, who are all white, posted supportive messages in regard to the designer. Comme des Garçons is not the first brand to be chastised for using black hairstyles in its designs: in 2015, Valentino used cornrows on its models.
Loewe’s pulls outfit accused of resembling Nazi concentration camp uniform
Diet Prada brought out Spanish luxury brand Loewe in November for an ensemble that resembled the uniforms of Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps, which also included vertical-striped button-down shirts and perfectly matched pants. This design was a part of the brand’s collaboration with tile designer William De Morgan and consists of white pieces with bold black stripes.
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Loewe apologised, removed related social media posts, and removed the merchandise from stores and online platforms. Loewe issued an apology via the brands Instagram account stating “It was brought to our attention that one of our looks featured in a magazine and part of our Arts and Crafts ceramicist William De Morgan could be misconstrued as referring to one of the most odious moments in the history of mankind,” the statement read. “It was absolutely never our intention and we apologize to anyone who might feel we were insensitive to sacred memories. The products featured have been removed from our commercial offering.”
Louis Vuitton was embroiled in controversy following its fall 2019 men’s wear collection inspired by Michael Jackson
Louis Vuitton was mired in controversy with the release of their fall 2019 men’s wear collection inspired by Michael Jackson, who was the focus of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which documented the late musician’s child sexual assault claims.
The men’s wear collection debuted on Jan. 17, more than a week before the documentary aired at the Sundance Film Festival, yet many people were outraged by Louis Vuitton’s tribute to Jackson’s legacy.
Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton, spoke exclusively to WWD about the brand’s criticism, saying, “I am aware that in light of this documentary, the show has caused emotional reactions.” I strictly oppose any form of child abuse, violence, or infringement of any human rights.”
The brand also stated that it was unaware of the documentary ahead of the men’s show. “My intention for this show was to refer to Michael Jackson as a pop culture artist,” Abloh continued. “It referred only to his public life that we all know and to his legacy that has influenced a whole generation of artists and designers.” The luxury fashion house further announced that no products from the collection will be produced that “directly feature Michael Jackson elements,” and that the products sold would “purely reflect the true values of the brand and of our artistic director.”
Kim Kardashian came under fire when she revealed the name of her first shapewear collection, Kimono.
Another week, another scandal over cultural appropriation. Or so it’s beginning to appear when it comes to fashion and its faux pas. This time, the lightning rod is Kim Kardashian West’s latest business, which she launched: a line of “solutionwear,” which is an innovative spin on the more traditional shapewear. This one happens to be called kimono.
The name of the brand was obviously a play on words with Kim’s name, but there had been some backlash online because the brand was called after a traditional Japanese robe “Kimono”. On media platforms, Kardashian had been lambasted for what many are calling “cultural appropriation,” as well as for the fact that the nude shapewear Kardashian wore in pictures by Vanessa Beecroft looked nothing like a kimono in the first place.
Later, Kim Kardashian West said in her statement that she had no plans “to design or release any garments that would in any way resemble or dishonor the traditional garment.” She also had no plans to respond to the reaction by changing the name. “My solutionwear brand is built with inclusivity and diversity at its core and I’m incredibly proud of what’s to come,” she added. That includes bras, briefs, shorts and bodysuits, among other undergarments.
“I’m so inspired by the Japanese culture. I didn’t understand that it would’ve been offensive… I would never want to intentionally disrespect a culture.” @KimKardashian talks about originally naming her shapewear line “Kimono” pic.twitter.com/p1SzIZg9Rg
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 10, 2019
Katy Perry’s fashion line included black footwear with blue eyes and vivid red lips. The brand was disparaged for racist caricatures, following which they recalled the items.
Katy Perry Collections, the pop star’s fashion line, withdrew footwear after being accused of using blackface.
The sandals and loafers, which featured a face featuring prominent red lips, were no longer available at shops such as Walmart. “In order to be respectful and sensitive, the team is in the process of pulling the shoes,” a company spokesman informed TMZ.
Perry responded to the backlash by characterizing the shoes as part of a collection “envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism.” I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain.” She added that they had been “immediately removed” of her fashion line’s website.
The designs are the latest in a long line of contentious garments that have been condemned for purportedly using the racist red-lipped Sambo caricature.
Calvin Klein issues apology after fans accuse the brand of queerbaiting in Bella Hadid Ad
In 2019, Calvin Klein released a commercial featuring Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela, the Instagram-famous digital avatar. However, fan outrage accusing the fashion house of queerbaiting prompted the design business to make an apology.
The 30-second commercial, which debuted on May 16, begins with Bella standing alone in a Calvin crop top and shorts, and is soon joined by Lil Miquela. A voice-over begins as the model and robot turn to face one other: “Life is about opening doors.” Creating new dreams that you never knew could exist.” Bella pulls Lil Miquela in for a kiss as the audio gives way to music, and the camera slowly fades to black.
While some fans focused on the science underlying a human-avatar kiss, others were dismissive of the kiss itself, with many accusing the commercial of queerbaiting.
“Life is about” what? This is a total queer bait …
Bella Hadid kisses Lil Miquela in new Calvin Klein commercial … https://t.co/FYbQMvoPwY
— Ottavio (Otto) G Marasco (@OttavioGM) May 17, 2019
Calvin Klein issued a statement the next day of the backlash, through Twitter, in response to fans’ criticisms, emphasising that the idea for their whole #MyCalvins campaign focuses around “freedom of expression” for a wide range of identities. “The specific campaign was created to challenge conventional norms and stereotypes in advertising. We explored the blurring borders between reality and imagination in this video.”
Here at CALVIN KLEIN, we welcome all types of constructive feedback from our community. We see your comments and we appreciate them. We’d like to offer our thoughts in response to comments on our campaign video featuring Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela. pic.twitter.com/OIcIekyR9K
— calvinklein (@CalvinKlein) May 17, 2019
The statement went on by saying “We understand and acknowledge how featuring someone who identifies as heterosexual in a same-sex kiss could be perceived as queerbaiting,” Calvin Klein wrote. “As a company with a longstanding tradition of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, it was certainly not our intention to misrepresent the LGBTQ+ community. We sincerely regret any offense we caused.”
All Images: Courtesy Brands