Gucci is stepping up its game. On January 26, the famed Italian fashion house took to Instagram to introduce nine of their newest models, all black, who are assumed to be the stars of the brand’s Pre-Fall 2017 campaign. In the nine videos posted, the models are each asked what it means to have soul or what their spirit animal is, followed by a request for them to show off their best dance moves set to a 1960’s-esque track. The dancing that ensues is supposed to give us a glimpse into exactly what “soul” is; as models like 19-year-old Alton, dressed in black-clad, pirouettes, kicks, and snaps along to the music, his clothes, which look about four sizes too big on him, create incredibly fluid movement. Another model, Akua, who says her spirit animal is a bumblebee—“because it creates things that are sweet and represents sensuality as well as pollinating new life”—playfully sways and breaks into can-can kicks and twirls.
The models, whose ages range from 19 to 23, possibly mark a change in direction for Gucci, demonstrating that the fashion world is finally entering in a new era. After the unveil, the brand was swarmed with positive messages of support via Instagram comments tweets. Many recognized this as a historic move, as the Italian label is notoriously racially exclusive in its model choices.
Gucci’s entry into the wave of designers who are celebrating diversity follows on the coattails of other high-end retailer such as Balmain—whose creative director, Olivier Rousteing has long advocated for racial diversity—and Prabal Gurung—who penned a powerful open letter in Lena Dunham’s newsletter last year about inclusion in the fashion industry. However, this is not to suggest that racial issues in the industry are completely resolved. Recently, a former Versace employee claimed that the retailer was being racially discriminant by using a code word for black customers. In his allegations, he alleges that he was trained to uses the code word “D410,” to notify workers if there was a customer of color in the shop.
Even more recently, Nicki Minaj staged a feud with footwear brand Giuseppe Zanotti, which she claims refused to discuss a collaboration with her, despite the singer having inspired several lines of his footwear. In a series of tweets, Minaj called out the designer, claiming that he created capsule shoe collections with several other artists, and was offended when she was told by her agency that the designer was specifically not taking her calls to be considered for her own collection. This led to the hashtags #GiuseppeWhatsGood and #RunMeMyCHECK to trend on Twitter as the singer insisted that “the racism and disrespect won’t be tolerated.“
While brands like Gucci are headed in the right direction, it’s clear that a significant amount of work still needs to be done before fashion can truly be considered all-inclusive.