By Indigo Charles, Senior Manager, VIP Relations at The Marketing Arm
Fashion is considered art and the designers the artists, so should fashion be treated the same way paintings are? Art is thought provoking, controversial, offensive, political, and completely unapologetic. Do fashion designers have the right to be unapologetic like other artists or is the risk of losing sales or alienating consumers too great?
#BoycottGucci is the latest hashtag taking the internet by storm as a result of Gucci’s controversial balaclava wool sweater, which many have expressed resembles blackface.
Social media is quick to start hashtags like #BoycottGucci, but maybe they should be saying #EducateGucci instead. Yes, this was a big creative miss on Gucci’s part, but would the alternative hashtag be more impactful to the brand and overall health of the culture?
Instances like these could, and should, be used as an opportunity to incite change and open a dialogue on why these misses in culture are happening.
Following the incident, Gucci issued an apology emphasizing the brand’s commitment to diversity. They also shared an extensive plan for inclusivity and expansion of diversity on their creative team.
“We accept full accountability for this incident, which exposed shortfalls in our ongoing strategic approach to embedding diversity and inclusion in both our organization and in our activities. I am particularly grateful to Dapper Dan for the role he has played in bringing community leaders together to offer us their counsel at this time,” Marco Bizzarri, Gucci President and CEO said in a press release.
The brand also developed a multi-step action plan made up of the following initiatives:
- Talent Hiring: global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion
- Scholarship Program: multicultural design scholarship program for schools in Harlem, Nairobi, New Delhi, Beijing, Hangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Beirut, London, and Dubai
- Global Learning: diversity and inclusivity awareness program for all 18,000 global employees
- Global Exchange Program: different regions to work from Italian headquarters, meant to promote cultural sensitivity and will consequently be able to integrate these insights into the company’s way of working
A simple apology would have probably sufficed for an iconic, global brand like Gucci. Social media has a short attention span and is always ready to jump on the next thing. But, taking it further and putting real action behind their apology shows they have hopefully learned something and have a desire to grow and improve as a company from this incident.
Brand missteps like this happen far too frequently and underline the importance of having an agency like The Marketing Arm that truly understands culture as trusted advisors in your corner. Take it from Gucci, to survive in the future, brands must have a diversity and inclusion strategy.
Here’s a little food for thought…
- Was #BoycottGucci the proper response by social media?
- Would a thoughtful apology and pulling the sweater from the shelves have been enough?
- Does the brand truly “get it” or is the launch of a diversity program just a PR response to a PR nightmare?