Gucci pulls ‘blackface sweater’ from stores after complaints

A screenshot from an online fashion outlet showing a Gucci turtleneck black wool balaclava sweater. Gucci has apologized for the sweater that resembled a ‘blackface’ and said it has been withdrawn. (AP Photo)
Updated 07 February 2019
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Gucci pulls ‘blackface sweater’ from stores after complaints

  • Complaints that a wool sweater with an oversized collar designed to cover the face resembled blackface makeup
  • It is the latest case of a fashion house having to apologize for cultural or racial insensitivity

ROME: Gucci has apologized after complaints that a wool sweater with an oversized collar designed to cover the face resembled blackface makeup, and said the item had been pulled from its online and physical stores.
It was the latest case of a fashion house having to apologize for cultural or racial insensitivity — and further evidence that Italy in particular has a wretched record with racial insensitivity staining everything from fashion to soccer to politics.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday, Gucci said it was committed to diversity and considered it a “fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make.”
The turtleneck black wool balaclava sweater, which sells for $890 on one site, covers the nose and includes a red cut-out for the mouth. It was ridiculed on social media as insensitive and racist, at a time when the US is grappling with cases of old photos of politicians with their faces blackened.
“Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper,” Gucci said, adding that it intended to turn the incident “into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”
Gucci, owned by French conglomerate Kering with an Italian design team, isn’t alone.
In December, Italian designer Prada said it was no longer selling a line of accessories that featured a character with brown skin and exaggerated red lips after complaints they resembled blackface.
And last year, Dolce & Gabbana canceled a Shanghai runway show and apologized after promotional videos seen as racist and subsequent insulting Instagram messages stoked a furor in one of the world’s largest markets for luxury goods. The ad campaign featured a Chinese model trying to eat pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks.
Non-Italian fashion brands have also been on the receiving end of complaints about insensitive products, behavior or ad campaigns.
British designer John Galliano was removed as creative director at the French fashion house Dior in 2011 and later given a suspended sentence by a French court for having made an anti-Semitic and racist rant at a Paris bar. The designer apologized and said he had been under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs at the time.
In 2014, the owner of Spanish retailer Zara recalled a children’s shirt that resembled the uniforms that Jews wore at Nazi concentration camps, with strips and a bright yellow six-pointed star recalling the Star of David. Owner Inditex said the shirt was designed to be part of a Wild West clothing theme and the star was intended as a sheriff’s badge.
And last year, Swedish retailer H&M pulled an ad featuring a black child wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” The campaign sparked celebrity protests and in South Africa, members of an opposition party stormed into some stores. The retailer apologized.
But most recently it has been Italian fashion houses that have been the target of celebrity and rank-and-file outrage — magnified by social media.
Racism is particularly acute in Italy, where taunts against black players are a regular occurrence at soccer matches and the country’s first black Cabinet minister was subject to repeated insults by ordinary Italians and elected officials.
Just last month, a court in Bergamo, northern Italy, convicted a senator from the anti-migrant League party, Roberto Calderoli, of defamation with the aggravating element of racial hatred for having called the former minister, Cecile Kyenge, an “orangutan.”


El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

Evelyn Hernandez (C) is surrounded by activists after being released from the women's Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador, on February 9, 2019, where she was serving a 30-year-sentence for aggravated homicide after her baby died at birth. (AFP)
Updated 38 min 30 sec ago
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El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

  • Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR: A Salvadoran court on Friday freed Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at home.
After serving 33 months for aggravated homicide, 20-year-old Hernandez smiled as she was reunited with her parents and a brother in the capital San Salvador.
The court in Cojutepeque, east of the capital, ruled that she will be retried but while living at home. A hearing has been set for April 4, with a new judge, her lawyer Angelica Rivas said.
El Salvador has an extremely strict abortion ban. Hernandez gave birth in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region. She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.
She said her son was stillborn but was convicted of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.
ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.
Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.
The group said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains. She got pregnant as the result of a rape, which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.
Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.
The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus which developed without a brain.
Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized her to undergo a cesarean section. The baby died shortly after the procedure.