Less than a week after Dapper Dan, Spike Lee and Soulja Boy criticized Gucci for its apparel that looked like blackface, shoes from Katy Perry’s line have received backlash for the same reason.
Two styles from the singer’s shoe collection — the Ora Face block-heel sandal and the Rue Face slip-on loafer — sparked an uproar on social media on Monday for their problematic resemblance to blackface makeup.
In response to the attention, Perry’s shoe partner, Global Brands Group has moved to remove the shoes from retailers such as Dillard’s and Walmart, as well as the brand’s own site.
The music star issued a statement today via GBG, saying, “The Rue and the Ora were part of a collection that was released last summer in nine different colorways (black, blue, gold, graphite, lead, nude, pink, red, silver) and envisioned [them] as a nod to modern art and surrealism. I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain.”
In recent weeks, conversations around racially insensitive products and marketing have been increasingly prevalent in the fashion industry, lately pointed at high-end brands such as Gucci and Prada (which drew criticism in December for selling and displaying monkey figures that resembled blackface characters). Gucci, meanwhile, is still addressing the fallout from its black wool balaclava sweater featuring a mouth cutout with outsized red lips. Brand CEO Marco Bizzarri is reportedly traveling to Harlem this week to meet with design partner Dapper Dan and other community members to discuss the situation.
Brand marketing consultant Deb Gabor told FN that luxury brands, in particular, hold a powerful place in the fashion industry as trend-makers. “What you see in retail stores is influenced by what’s happening at Gucci and other brands,” said the CEO of Sol Marketing. “That’s why it’s essential that even the highest-end designers keep their fingers on the pulse of trends and market-level conversations happening around them in any market in which they operate. There’s no excuse that Gucci is in Italy. As a global brand, they have a responsibility to be relevant everywhere they have customers.”