They say there’s no such thing as bad press. Clearly, Burberry creative director Riccardo Tisci subscribes to that theory, since his latest move made Prada and Gucci’s recent racial gaffes look like child’s play.
Like the aforementioned luxury fashion houses, Burberry made some provocative design choices this season, consequently raising the bar on offensiveness to incredible new heights. (Really—it’s almost awe-inspiring.) In an otherwise typically tan presentation at London Fashion Week, the British brand decided to put their own spin on the tried, true and tired hoodie by tying its neck cords like ... a noose???
You know we can’t make this stuff up—and we won’t dig into the egregious appropriation of the elaborate baby hair also present on Burberry’s Fall-Winter 2019 runway, because that’s just par for the course. But how in the hell do you manage to be insensitive to both black people and those who struggle with suicidal ideation (let alone black people who struggle with suicidal ideation) with one hideous and triggering look?
Tisci claims that the design was intended to be nautical in theme. Coming from the man who dressed a pregnant Kim Kardashian like an outdated floral couch at the 2013 Met Gala (he also designed her wedding gown), we’re more apt to believe this was a troll taken too far. (In fact, we’re half-expecting once close friend Kanye West top publicly come to his defense, just for the sake of being
The publicity stunt was not lost on at least one model cast in the show, who, while not dressed in the outfit in question, addressed its inappropriateness with a member of the team. The response?
“[I]t’s fashion. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself.”
Instead, model Liz Kennedy wrote a now-viral Instagram post, admitting that as a result, she’d felt “ashamed” to take part in the show (and before you criticize her for keeping the gig, please understand that backing out of a major show at the last minute could mean the end of a model’s entire career).
But Kennedy wasn’t the only one offended; social media was in an uproar over the styling, prompting removal of the item from the collection and all stores, and apologies from both Tisci and Burberry’s CEO, Marco Gobbetti, as reported by Huffington Post UK.
“We are deeply sorry for the distress caused by one of the products that featured in our A/W 2019 runway collection ‘Tempest,’” said Gobbetti. “Though the design was inspired by the marine theme that ran throughout the collection, it was insensitive and we made a mistake. ... We will reflect on this, learn from it and put in place all necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again.”
Ahh, yes ... the now all-too-familiar “necessary actions.” But in a season which has been rife with blatantly offensive imagery and even more outrageous apologies, it’s become impossible to believe designers are moving through the world blind to the implications of the fashions they are creating. Instead, it is easier to believe they consider a certain segment of the population expendable, as they are not their target audience.
But if the impact upon black consumers and industry insiders is of no concern, for an industry that has lost several of its talents to suicide by hanging—Alexander McQueen, L’Wren Scott and most recently, Kate Spade—this was a stunt that may be unignorable by the fashion elite. In and of itself, that is telling; and once again raises the issue of inclusivity in the decision-making bodies at popular brands, as noted to HuffPo by the Mental Health Foundation’s Dr. Antonis Kousoulis.
“There’s a question of diversity. Where are the decisions being made? They could be positive agents of change if they allowed diversity into the creative process.”
As always, we agree. But until brands value diversity as much as even the poorest publicity, we dare not expect better.