Racist marketing, cultural appropriation, animal comparisons, and blackface are all examples of racism alive and well in today’s fashion industry. Over the past few years, it has become abundantly clear that the fashion industry fosters racist behavior with little real consequences. With the release of many campaigns complete with racism scandals, one would think that improvement would be made, but it continues to happen quite often.
One of the biggest issues of racism in fashion is because of marketing, which often causes controversy for its racist depictions. Macy’s caused controversy of similar nature when they featured a holiday pajama ad in which several two-parent families were featured along with one single parent family, depicting a black woman as a single mother.
Many took offense with the campaign, questioning the stereotype of single black mothers, while others questioned if this was just an honest mistake with good intentions in mind. Many were quick to point out that even though this instance is not the most obvious example of racism, it proves that the fashion industry, specifically the marketing side, has lots of internalized racism.
Another example that made global headlines was an H&M children’s sweater worn by a black model that read “coolest monkey in the jungle.” Many were quick to point out how the child wearing the sweater was the only black model in the sweater collection and the only one to wear the sweater branded with “coolest monkey in the jungle.” This is one of the many cases of racism that brought the public’s attention to the growing issue.
Lots of people have voiced their opinion on this topic, some even coming to the defense of the people behind the racist scandals, however, there is one aspect of the issue that is relatively indisputable. Blackface has been in news headlines quite often over the past decade. Whether it be the darkening of a person’s skin using makeup or other alteration or creating a clothing item that resembles blackface, it has become a growing issue in and outside of the fashion industry.
Most recently Gucci has come under fire for creating clothing items resembling blackface. Gucci created a black sweater that covered the torso and reached to the nose of the model also featuring what appeared to be large red lips around the mouth. Many people were quick to point out that this was blackface and called for the sweater to be removed from the shop, which it later was, and for the company to issue an official apology.
Although out-right racism is the most talked about issue currently, the prevalence of non-diverse models has been an issue for many years, and in more recent times, cultural appropriation has become an outspoken issue among models. For example, the use of dreadlocks on white models by designer Marc Jacobs and the common use of traditional Native American attire as a “fashion statement.” Cultural appropriation is still a controversial topic among many people in and outside of the fashion industry, some people taking the side that it is wrong and disrespectful while others don’t understand why it is perceived as offensive.
Most people see the prevalent racism that still exists in the fashion industry and criticize it, but what is actually happening to fix it? The answer is virtually nothing. Although several members of the industry have come out to speak against the racism, it doesn’t seem to be enough. In order to fix the issue, it is important that people take initiative to create more tolerance in the industry and work to create more diverse groups to avoid issues like these in the future.
Grace Beilman // Staff Writer