Dolce & Gabbana's Racist Earrings Controversy


(ImaxTree) Runway close-ups from the spring 2013 Dolce & Gabbana show

The clothes at Dolce & Gabbana's spring 2013 Milan Fashion Week show may have been inspired by Sicily, but the slave-imagery-inspired earrings—well, they're a whole other talk show.

Design duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have come under fire in the past few days for showing Blackamoor-inspired earrings on their spring runway. The Guardian writes:
The earrings are reminiscent of Blackamoor statues that can be found in Italy, but more recognisably to non-Italians, Aunt Jemima dolls. That's the same Aunt Jemima that, initially conceived as part of a minstrel show, became an image that romanticised slavery and plantation life. There's no denying they're offensive.
"There wasn't a single black model in Dolce & Gabbana's show," the Guardian's fashion EA Sarah Ilyas writes, "and it's hard not to be appalled by the transparent exoticism in sending the only black faces down the runway in the form of earrings."

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, Refinery29 takes a stand:
The luxury brand debuted a spring '13 collection that rested heavily on the laurels of a long-lost colonial era, complete with all the cartoonish, debasing, subaltern imagery that would make even your politically incorrect Grandpa think twice... There is no creative interpretation or buffer between these earrings and the kind of lamentable, dated figurines you find in airport gift shops. These severed heads dangling from a pale-skinned model's ear are not fun or playful, but simply evocative of some of the darkest times in Western history.
And the team over at The Gloss are appalled:
We are of the opinion that fostering (and profiting off) negative ethnic stereotypes is racist. Especially in the context of a luxury brand owned by white men who’ve created a collection shown exclusively on white models, set against a nebulously “island” backdrop.
Racism in fashion seems to have run rampant lately—from Dolce & Gabbana's slavery-glorifying earrings to hypersexual appropriations of Asian culture. What do you think is the best way to raise awareness among designers and large corporations about the co-opting of imagery and exoticizing cultures unfamiliar to them? Is education the answer? Tell us in the comments, below.
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