Remember back in the 90s when everyone thought that Tommy Hilfiger was a racist? It all started with an email, a boycott campaign against Hilfiger that quoted him as saying; if he had known minorities were going to wear his clothes he wouldn’t have made them “so nice”. All of this of course was false.
Fast-forward to the present day and it seems not much has changed. Racism in fashion is still just as controversial as it was back in 1996, and thanks to a tweet by explicit emcee Azealia Banks, issue of racism in fashion has found its way back into the limelight yet again.
In response to Dolce & Gabbana’s summer 2013 collection which she branded as “black mammie imagery”, the notorious rapper tweeted to her 250,000+ followers: “Definitely boycotting Dolce & Gabanna…Whoever designed that racist ass Dolce and Gabanna collection needs a swift kick in the mouth and a big dick up the ass…I really hate it when people do corny, racist things then try to justify it as “art”.
Now I don’t necessarily agree with the way Banks voiced her disdain for D&G’s alleged exploitation of African heritage that stems back centuries, upon centuries. Telling someone that they need ‘a swift kick in the mouth and a big dick up the ass’ is hardly the most mature way of getting your point across, but then again I can understand her frustration.
Some may say that Banks’ decision to completely boycott D&G is melodramatic; I say it’s been a long time coming.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry likes to play up to the ‘artist’ stereotype of being liberal and open minded, but the truth is when you look back at fashion history, it is clear that the mentality of the fashion industry hasn’t quite caught up with the 21st century. The fashion industry still live by an old set of highly elitist rules, one that only serves the interest of those in its inner circle.
Before Azealia’s tweet, the same D&G collection was criticised for featuring models that sported earrings which resembled “Blackamoor” decorations. Blackamoors are statues that depicted African servants, and in today’s contemporary world are viewed as a racist and offensive portrayal of African slavery.
But it isn’t just D&G, Victoria’s secret were forced to pull their offensive line of Asian influenced lingerie “Sexy Little Geisha” after many criticised their sexualizing of Asian women.
And Let’s not forget the nauseating anti-Semitic bile that purged out of former artistic director of Christian Dior, John Galliano’s mouth.
As I previously stated, although I don’t agree with some of the words in which Banks used against D&G’s derogatory summer collection, there was a sentence in her statement that struck a cord: “I really hate it when people do corny, racist things then try to justify it as “art”.
Is there a line between racism and art, and if so where is this line? Why does fashion feel the need to cross this line time and time again? Will there always be segregation between ethnicity and fashion?
Before Azealia’s tweet, the same D&G collection was criticised for featuring models that sported earrings which resembled “Blackamoor” decorations.
Now I don’t think that the D&G designers who claimed that their summer collection was inspired by Sicilian culture are racist, although after looking at images of the collection it is clear that they are ill informed of the culture they tried to portray. Yes, Sicily has always been ethnically and socially diverse but, when most think of Sicily, the last images they would conjure are earrings that resemble statues of slaves.
The truth is, these D&G designers like a majority of the fashion industry are ignorant, and in this day and age where knowledge becomes more and more easily accessible, there is simply no excuse for ignorance.
I’m all for fashion pushing the boundaries but not at the expense of a sub-group of people who are still fighting to move on from the stigma of their history. But we can’t just blame the fashion industry, we the consumers need to realise that we are the problem too. These offensive clothes are made for the purpose of seducing us into parting with our cash and morals all in the name of temporary vanity.
Some may say that Banks’ decision to completely boycott D&G is melodramatic; I say it’s been a long time coming. The only way the fashion industry will change is if we join together and hit them exactly where it hurts, in their overflowing pockets.
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