Spike Lee has announced he is boycotting designers Gucci and Prada, Page Six is reporting. The director took to Instagram to post that he would no longer purchase anything from the companies until an actual black person is available to help with the designs and potentially veto any racist imagery before the product hits the market. Lee is usually a fan of the designers, having last worn Gucci on the Venice Film Festival red carpet last September, and shortly after attending the Prada womenswear preview show in Milan while donning a black Prada suit.
Gucci has recently come under fire for selling a high-neck black wool sweater that outlines bright red lips when pulled over the face. Gucci has since removed the item from their website and issued an official apology. As for Prada, they recently faced backlash for selling a monkey bag charm resembling blackface in December. Prada also removed the offending item from stores and online and released an apology.
Blackface has always been controversial, but is particularly a hot-button topic as of late as it was recently discovered that both the Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam and his attorney general Mark Herring painted their faces dark to imitate a black person in their college days in the 1980s. Blackface has a prevalent and painful history, originating in minstrel shows in the 19th century. Performers would paint their faces and act out stereotypes to portray characters that mocked people with darker skin.
Blackface isn’t the only racist slip-up the fashion industry has been facing nowadays — Dolce & Gabbana faced a boycott in China after one of the main designers insulted Chinese people in a private chat over promotional videos featuring a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks. Understandably, many Chinese people found this depiction to be insensitive and boycotted the brand. This resulted in a huge drop in Dolce & Gabbana’s sales, as China is arguably the No. 1 market for luxury and designer items.
Model Cipriana Quann, who was asked about the controversies in an interview during New York Fashion Week, feels that the fashion industry needs to be not only diverse behind-the-scenes, but in the spotlight as well.
“When the company is not diverse, so they’re not inclusive,” the model said. “So, the more diverse your company, the more you’ll be able to catch those cultural appropriation screw-ups. So, you need to see it across the map. So not only in the boardroom. On the runway, even in street-style photography, not photographing women that are only homogenous in looks, you need diversity as well. In every aspect.”