Unconscious or conscious racism: there’s no second chances

Unconscious or conscious racism: there’s no second chances

I don’t know about you, but the recent headlines about Dolce & Gabbana’s DG Loves China campaign made for some cringe-worthy, watch-from-behind-your-hands reading. With the company called out for its apparent trivialising of China’s culture and racist connotations of Chinese women, the fashion designer called time on its show.

In fact, such was the fall out from the mid-judged campaign that D&G stores within the country have now got bodyguards positioned at the doors, with some online retailers delisting the brand from its sites. And this was all despite a heartfelt apology from the designers, with both Dolce & Gabbana claiming it was an error of judgement and that they will try to do better in the future.

So was it a merely part of the brand’s blooper roll, an ‘oops’ moment that made it to centre stage? Perhaps. But it could also be seen as an indication that as much as brands like to shout about their diversity credentials, conscious or unconscious racism is still rife within the industry. Because let’s face it, it certainly wasn’t the only clanger this year.

Kendall Jenner was once again at the centre of a scandal in October, with ‘cultural appropriation’ called in relation to a recent American Vogue shoot that saw Jenner styled with an afro. Readers understandably questioned why the Teen Queen was chosen over an African American model. While the magazine stated that the image was supposed to replicate ‘the big hair of the ‘60s and the early ‘70s’, it didn’t appease, with comments such as, ‘For years we have been penalized about our looks and especially our hair. It is a slap in the face when non-Blacks try to imitate the look,’ abounding.

In both cases, and those similar, the ones at fault, have shouted ‘mistake’. But is it? Or is it really a sign that there are still many cases of unconscious bias in terms of race – all shrugged off after as a misjudged, unintentional faux pax. Whatever it is, it’s clear that in the current #metoo era, consumers are less forgiving. They no longer accept these half-hearted apologies post event. Brands must be savvier. One source told WWD.com, “Things today can’t be taken lightly anymore. If you are wrong, you pay the consequences. The production of content is so important for brands that they have to be aware of how powerful it can be and strategies need to return to be central.”

True story. And while the internet may be a fast moving environment with news going out of fashion as fast as it comes in, there’s no denying that mud sticks. That John Galliano anti-Semitic comment caught on camera in a drunken rant some years ago is now well and truly part of his history. And it might just be the case for D&G et all.

But while D&G is perhaps being used as a scapegoat, with backlash, brand boycotts, and even some speculation new names will be brought in to replace the disgraced designers still swirling the industry, it’s a stark warning to other companies that going forward into 2019, marketing campaigns and advertisements need to be better thought out. ‘Approach with caution’ is a mantra that clearly needs to be adopted, and if you don’t, and if you fail, be prepared to handle the consequences. As, head’s up, consumers, retailers, and even your industry pals just aren’t taking it lying down anymore.

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