By Holly Ferguson
A few days prior to their Spring Summer 2018 Men’s Wear show, design duo Dolce and Gabbana launched a campaign to boycott their own brand.
In what has been described as ‘playful profiting’, D&G released t-shirts branded with the slogan #BOYCOTT DOLCE&GABBANA, featuring a red heart underneath. A video featuring a fake protest with joyful, dancing protestors wearing said t-shirts whilst holding corresponding signs, was also released.
So, what inspired their campaign to boycott their own brand? Following the brand’s vocal support of the US First Lady Melania Trump, with the FLOTUS wearing the brand in her official White House portrait and on several other occasions, a huge storm of backlash towards the brand began online. Criticism over the brand’s political alignment encouraged the hashtag “Boycott Dolce&Gabbana” to take up on Instagram and twitter.
In response to the hate and critics the Italian brand decided to capitalise on the movement, choosing to rebrand the hashtag into an ironic t-shirt (for the cool price of $275 AUD).
Backstage at their Men’s Spring Summer 2018 show the models, staff and designers themselves wore the controversial t-shirts. To one who didn’t know the context of the t-shirts this must have seemed like a bizarre move for the brand to make.
American musician Raury Deshawn Tullis certainly seemed to find the t-shirts questionable. Raury was one of the millennial ‘social media influencer’ cast walking in the show, which was mostly made up of Instagram celebrities such as Cameron Dallas. Not knowing much about D&G prior to the show Raury decided to google the brand to learn more about them.
As Raury told in a GQ interview, upon googling the brand he saw the headline ““Dolce & Gabbana Is Trolling Melania Trump Critics with This $245 T-shirt.” He then watched the fake protest commercial:
“Me, as a young man from Stone Mountain, Georgia, the birthplace of the Klu Klux Klan, I really felt this mockery of boycotting. Who knows, if boycotts didn’t happen, if Rosa Parks and M.L.K. didn’t step up…who knows if I would even exist. Boycotting matters. Boycotting is real. Dolce’s entire campaign says it’s not real.”
Astounded by the brand’s support of Melania and in turn President Trump, Raury made the decision to make sure that people knew that his views did not align with those of D&G.
After walking calmly through the main part of the show, during the closing Raury ripped off the D&G hoodie and bomber to reveal the words “PROTEST”, “I AM NOT YOUR SCAPEGOAT” and “GIVE ME FREEDOM” written over his chest and torso.
As expected Raury was promptly kicked out of the show by security and edited out of the show’s video footage. In fact, there’s hardly any evidence of the incident at all apart from some images and handful of news articles. If you google the show there’s not even a mention of the incident on the first page of searches. The majority of articles about the show boast about the brand’s innovative use of the politically silent social media millennials #DGMillennials. As one YouTube commenter says on the show’s video:
“shout out to Raury for protesting and being a true Millennial #plottwistbitches.”
This was not a random incident, nor an isolated one. This was just the latest public reaction to the brand’s, questionable, politics and past. The incident itself, like many others involving the fashion brand, was swept under the rug and almost completely abolished from history.
It’s now expected behaviour of the fashion duo to cause controversy through insensitive and offensive comments and actions. One has to ask how much longer will they be able to get away with their ignorant antics. Do people need a reminder of the brand and duo’s past affairs? In case you do here is a chronicle of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s previous scandals:
2007: Advertisement Simulating Gang Rape
Pulled from Italian publications the advertisement in question depicts a woman lying down whilst three men stand around her and another holds her down by the wrists. The image, which was promoting the brand’s spring/summer 2007 ready-to-wear collection, was found to be so offensive that it prompted 13 Italian senators to write a joint letter to the Advertising Self-Discipline Institute (IAP) to ban the advertisement. Feminist writer Louise Pennington spoke to the Huffington Post about the image and why its allusions to gang rape are inexcusable and represent the “misogynistic construction of women in the fashion industry”:
“Those who suggest this image is harmless fail to recognise the reality of rape culture and the dehumanisation of women’s bodies in our pornographic mainstream media.”
2012: Mammy Earrings
Amongst a collection that D&G claimed was inspired by their Sicilian heritage, models wore earrings that observers noted as having a close resemblance to the racial caricature ‘Mammy’ a figurine created during the era of American Slavery. Mammy was made to serve as an image of humane slavery, an African American woman who was faithful to the white family who owned her. Even with the abolition of slavery after the Civil War the racist caricature grew in popularity, instead of decreasing. Mammy was always depicted as overweight, with a deep black skin tone, wearing maid’s clothing and a headscarf. In D&G’s collection models wore prints with black faces on them and earrings with black figurines wearing head scarves. Although the designers claimed the looks were inspired by their Sicilian heritage they do have a striking resemblance to those seen in the Jim Crow era in which caricatures like Mammy were thriving.
(Photo:Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
In 2016 the brand again faced accusations of being racially insensitive with the release of a pair of sandals, which they named ‘Slave Sandals.’
2015: Anti IVF and Gay adoption
During an interview with Italian magazine Panorma the pair made comments against IVF and Gay adoptions:
“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” “No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” “You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that’s how it should be. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children.”
It was these comments which really garnered negative press. It was also the inception of the first #BoycottDolceGabbana, by none other than Sir Elton John. Elton John has two children born by surrogates.
A cluster of other celebrities joined the campaign including Madonna who had previously modelled for the brand in 2009 and 2010 and has two adopted children of her own:
“All babies contain a soul however they come to this earth and their families. There is nothing synthetic about a soul!! So how can we dismiss IVF and surrogacy? Every soul comes to us to teach us a lesson. God has his hand in everything even technology! We are arrogant to think Man does anything on his own. As above so below! Think before you speak.,,,,,,,,,,,??#livingforlove.”
This time the controversy caused the duo to come forward with a statement in attempts to amend their initial comments. They called their views traditional and claimed that they were speaking about their way of seeing reality, “it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices. We do believe in freedom and love.”
2017: Thin & Gorgeous Shoe
Earlier this year as part of their new millennial focused fashion D&G released shoes with a DIY look. The sneaker shoe features handwritten slogans and phrases such as “So Fab!” However, the trouble starts near the heel of the shoe where the words “I’m Thin & Gorgeous” are written. While fans of the design duo defended the slogan, saying that the shoe was meant to be interrupted with humour, critics questioned the motivation of the slogan, calling it irresponsible. CEO of the United States National Eating Disorders Assocition, Claire Mysko, spoke with Yahoo Style about the design; acknowledging the harmful side of this seemingly playful slogan:
“Though there may be an element of cheeky humor at play in the design of these sneakers, equating thinness and beauty with success and status is a message that hurts everyone.”
Mysko further related the incident to the wider issue of the fashion industry’s influence of the perception of ideal beauty being sample-sized.
With the brand’s direct focus on millennials Dolce and Gabbanna’s past words and actions are setting a worrying example for the young demographic that follows them. Their past scandals, as demonstrated, feature hate speech, racism, sexism and more.
Speaking backstage at their Men’s Spring Summer 2018 show, Dolce said “People use heavy words very easily these days. There is too much aggression. We think what the world needs is love—and for us, fashion is love.”
But was he and Gabbana not aggressive when they made their comments against gay adoption? Were they not using heavy words when they called children born via IVF synthetic? Were they spreading love into the world by promoting unrealistic beauty standards?
Dolce and Gabbana are certainly not the only fashion brand or designers to make extremely inappropriate comments and make poor actions. It’s seems all to convenient to forget the past when your Instagram crush is walking in their show or when they come out with a cute dress.
Continuing to support brands like D&G after their numerous offenses conveys the message that it’s okay to say and do the things they have done with no consequences. It’s time to hold fashion accountable and stand up to what is not okay.