In what seems to be a never-ending story of European fashion design houses blatantly mocking Black culture, another brand has added more fuel to the fire.
British luxury label Burberry—now under the helm of renowned couturier Riccardo Tisci—has joined the growing list of fashion companies that are being called out for making racially insensitive missteps in their design process. The brand recently showed its Fall/Winter 2019 ‘Tempest’ collection during London Fashion Week and featured a design on the runway that caused an uproar; out of the 100-plus looks that were sent down the catwalk, Look #25 featured a model wearing a brown fur coat and tan hoodie that had a “noose” tied around the neck in place of where typical hoodie drawstrings should be.
In the days since its debut on the Burberry runway, the hoodie has caused outrage within the fashion community, prompting one model in particular, Liz Kennedy, to call out the label for racial insensitivity and suicidal triggering.
In an emboldened Instagram post, Kennedy—a white female model who walked in the controversial show—put Burberry and its designer Tisci on blast:
“Suicide is not fashion. It is not glamorous nor edgy and since this show is dedicated to the youth expressing their voice, here I go. Riccardo Tisci and everyone at Burberry it is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway. How could anyone overlook this and think it would be okay to do this especially in a line dedicated to young girls and youth. The impressionable youth. Not to mention the rising suicide rates world wide. Let’s not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either. There are hundreds of ways to tie a rope and they chose to tie it like a noose completely ignoring the fact that it was hanging around a neck. A massive brand like Burberry who is typically considered commercial and classy should not have overlooked such an obvious resemblance. I left my fitting extremely triggered after seeing this look (even though I did not wear it myself). Feeling as though I was right back where I was when I was going through an experience with suicide in my family. Also to add in they briefly hung one from the ceiling (trying to figure out the knot) and were laughing about it in the dressing room. I had asked to speak to someone about it but the only thing I was told to do was to write a letter. I had a brief conversation with someone but all that it entailed was “it’s fashion. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself” well I’m sorry but this is an issue bigger than myself. The issue is not about me being upset, there is a bigger picture here of what fashion turns a blind eye to or does to gain publicity. A look so ignorantly put together and a situation so poorly handled. I am ashamed to have been apart of the show. #burberry. I did not post this to disrespect the designer or the brand but to simply express an issue I feel very passionate about.”
Apologizing for the incident, Tisci and Burberry’s CEO, Marco Gobbetti, issued an exclusive statement to online cultural magazine High Snobiety:
“We are deeply sorry for the distress caused by one of the products that featured in our A/W 2019 runway collection, Tempest. I called Ms. Kennedy to apologize as soon as I became aware of this on Monday and we immediately removed the product and all images that featured it. Though the design was inspired by the marine theme that ran throughout the collection, it was insensitive and we made a mistake. The experience Ms. Kennedy describes does not reflect who we are and our values. We will reflect on this, learn from it and put in place all necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again,” says Gobetti.
“I am so deeply sorry for the distress that has been caused as a result of one of the pieces in my show on Sunday. While the design was inspired by a nautical theme, I realize that it was insensitive. It was never my intention to upset anyone. It does not reflect my values nor Burberry’s and we have removed it from the collection. I will make sure that this does not happen again,” says Tisci.
From Katy Perry’s “blackface shoes” being pulled from retail shelves to Gucci issuing an apology for its “blackface sweater” to Prada enlisting Ava DuVernay to head its diversity and inclusion board (only after being called out for its racially insensitive 2018 Animalia collection) to Burberry now pulling its “noose” hoodie, these big brands obviously think that it is okay to design, showcase and then sell these items and a big question is why.
Moreover, the bigger question is, will Black consumers continue to support these brands knowing that we’re being publicly mocked?