A number of civil rights and employment lawsuits filed over the last handful of years have accused fashion industry powerhouses of discriminating against workers on the basis of race. Among them, two employees at high-end retail shops in California say they were treated poorly by management because of their race, and that black shoppers who weren’t celebrities were identified by code so that employees could monitor them more closely than other shoppers. Those cases, against Versace and Moschino, were later settled out-of-court.
There have also been numerous recent incidents of reported racial insensitivity within the industry, including:
- Backlash following the release of several Gucci products, including an “Indy full turban,” a blackface jumper and a hoodie with strings tied like a noose.
- An H&M “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” advertisement featuring a black child.
- Prada’s release of key chain figurines that resembled the offensive “Little Sambo” children’s book character of the late 19th Century. The New York City Commission on Human Rights sided with a civil rights attorney in a complaint over the figures, and the company reached a settlement and plans to begin diversity training.
Many think pieces have been published regarding rampant racism within the fashion industry. Although some companies are making an effort to diversify the models, people who work in the industry say the effort has to go beyond that to really mean something and address the racial undercurrents that are reflected in from the runway to the retailers. Continue reading