I’ve been fortunate to be able to lend my voice to Remzecla on several important pieces. One of those pieces was on the sparked discourse around anti-Blackness and colorism in the highly-anticipated film In the Heights earlier this summer. So, when I saw the publication among other media outlets praising Jennifer Lopez being draped in Dolce & Gabbana for its latest show in Venice, I had some thoughts. I understand what Lopez represents for many with her indisputably impactful career. But that shouldn’t make her impervious to criticism — especially when so many communities have been affected by the words and actions of the fashion house being supported. But let’s be clear, JLo wasn’t the only celebrity in question during this fashion event, as many of our favorites were in attendance as if Dolce and Gabbana hadn’t built up a disreputable track record.
I get it. It’s been a “hard” year for celebrities. Here comes one of the most iconic fashion houses lending an olive branch of their pre-pandemic lives after a year without the Met Gala, award shows, performances, or red carpets. Finally, here’s a chance to bring back the spectacle of excess and luxury. While celebrities flooding to this opportunity comes at no surprise, it’s the backing of Dolce & Gabbana, the controversial duo of design — also known as the kings of the cut and paste apology — that has left many astonished. Let me take you through D&G’s resume of shame.
All within a decade, the brand released a shoe called the “Slave Sandals,” had models walk in earrings reminiscent of colonial “Blackamoor” statues, publicly supported Melania Trump (and trolled critics), called Selena Gomez “ugly,” and opposed IVF and adoption by gay couples. Stefano Gabbana also attended a party in blackface. That wasn’t all. In 2018, the brand released advertisements depicting a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks to promote a Shanghai fashion show dubbed “The Great Show.” The video, narrated in Mandarin, lectures the model while using a sexual undertone. Many people pointed out how it fueled stereotypes while patronizing and trivializing Chinese culture. This resulted in subsequent boycotts by celebrities and consumers. Eventually, the fashion show was forced to be canceled. Yet, things were further exacerbated when Gabbana complained about the ads and allegedly called the Chinese people “Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” via Instagram DM. The designer claimed he was hacked. Still, the faux pas sparked outrage in the fashion world, and sales in the world’s largest luxury market plummeted. The mea culpa, recorded in front of a fashionable backdrop, couldn’t save this sinking ship at the time.
Fast forward to 2020, with racial tensions heightening around the world, movements like Black Lives Matter and #StopAsianHate stood for these communities facing injustices. Many of the celebrities present at the Dolce & Gabbana event stood behind these movements yet lost that same energy when attending a fashion show helmed by two people who have consistently shown zero regard for these communities. What happened to that spirited activism?
Diddy, who has frequently spoken out, once stated: “I will hold the Black vote hostage to Joe Biden.” Where is that smoke for D&G? Jennifer Lopez walked with then-fiancé Alex Rodriguez in a BLM march in Los Angeles. Still, she displayed herself draped in clothing from a designer with a long history of racism for her Instagram. Others present include Ozuna, Ciara, Dashaun Wesley, and Zoe Saldaña, among many more.
Some in the fashion world, like stylist Jason Bolden, have refused to support the designers. Louis Pisano from Harper’s Bazaar expressed his thoughts on Twitter and Instagram Stories, telling followers how having awards doesn’t necessarily translate into intelligence and integrity. Stylist Saint Shanno and activist Deray publicly joined in the disapproval. It’s time for many to take the same approach. For those that will say, “Doesn’t the brand deserve a chance to recover?” Not when they’ve shown zero capacity to learn and continue to make problematic offenses. As Pisano also tweeted, “We just spent the last year fighting racism in the industry only to do what?” We can celebrate faves — but we must hold ourselves, along with our favorite celebrities, designers, and media outlets, accountable for future generations, especially when any of us are pulling up to a table laced in racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.