There are some people who live for fashion. There are some who don't care about fashion at all. And then there are some who may not live for fashion, but can recognize and appreciate when a major fashion label takes a step towards inclusively.
The world-renown fashion house debuted its Pre-Fall 2017 campaign, which is about, to quote the brand's Instagram page, "referencing the spirit of England’s underground Northern Soul movement of the 60s." This particular campaign features only black models.
Or, as Essence puts it, "to say that the melanin is flourishing in these images would be an understatement."
If you're not sure why this is noteworthy, it's because high fashion has a long history of not being diverse — from designers to models. The New York Times reported in 2015 that "the percentage of African-American designers who are members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America [is] approximately 12 out of 470." In 2015, Essence reported "black models accounted for only 8.5 percent of castings" during fashion weeks.
As Essence writer Dominique Hobdy explains, "Perhaps what's most refreshing about this move is the flawless use of Black models to celebrate Black culture — and while that seems like an obvious move, we know all too well that seeing Black faces as representatives of Black culture us not always a given. In fact, it's a notion that's overlooked far too often."
She makes another valid point:
"On top of needing to be seen in the industry, we need to be clear and not blur the lines on where certain styles stem from. We need to be clear about the fact that things like Bantu knots, 'Boxer braids,' doorknocker earrings and other expressions unique to the Black community already have a home. This campaign does that by drawing a straight line between inspiration and the people that sparked it."
This is an encouraging step, given that Gucci has a troubling track record when it comes to representation and diversity.
In 2013, Jezebel reported on a roundtable discussion among "five of the most prominent casting directors in the [fashion] industry" regarding diversity. Of Gucci's casting, the consensus was that their lack of models of color was not "intentionally racist."
Barbara Nicoli, casting director for Gucci, explained:
"Gucci never has a huge number of black girls in the show because in the mind of Frida [Giannini, Gucci's creative director], she wants this [specific] type of girl. She wants this girl, then if the model she likes is black or Asian, it's fine. But when you do a casting, [you see a lot fewer black and Asian models than white models]."
And what often winds up happening is that models of color are underrepresented.
Model Chanel Iman told The Times of London in Feb. 2013, "a few times I got excused by designers who told me, 'We already found one black girl. We don't need you any more.' I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, 'We don't want you because we already have one of your kind,' it's really sad."
Gucci's problematic past isn't just regarding the models, either.
In 2011, Josephine Robinson, who worked as a lawyer for Gucci, sued the brand for discrimination. The New York Post reported on the details at the time:
"Robinson, who describes herself as a dark-skinned West Indian Latina, is seeking $5 million in damages for what she calls an unrelenting barrage of racist comments and jokes at her expense by Sherwood and others at Gucci, which she says fired her last year after she complained about the treatment."
Still, people are remaining optimistic. Twitter user @femmeminem declared "Gucci's London 60s Soul inspired campaign is one of the best things to happen for 2017."