Italian fashion house Prada is pulling out all the stops with a new diversity council to pre-empt any blackface backlash. They’ve brought in sculptor Theaster Gates and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, both are tasked to “elevate voices of color” and advise the company as it invests in diverse talent development,” according to Prada. With hip-hop’s influence on the luxury fashion sector, can Prada’s diversity council help to close the massive gap between a post-racial fashion industry and today’s reality?
The Breakdown You Need to Know
It has been said by many people the fashion industry has failed the black community all while appropriating its culture. Case in point, Prada had come under fire for products and marketing seen as racially insensitive. Last December the company displayed a monkey figurine that resembled blackface. Through this new diversity council Prada wants to address these issues and create internship and apprenticeship programs in diverse communities.
CultureBanx reported Prada in past years has lost ground to both new and old rivals in an increasingly competitive industry dominated by European fashion conglomerates LVMH and Kering. The company’s sales had declined since 2014 before returning to growth last year. Revenues in the first six months of the year were up 9.4% and net income rose €105.7 million ($123.4 million). Barring any other racially insensitive design sanfus Prada notes digital sales are set to reach 15% of total sales by 2020.
We must remember that the $3 trillion global fashion sector continues to struggle with whitewashed executives. The issues with luxury brands and blackface don’t stop or start with Prada. Gucci made the same mistake with a black turtleneck decorated with large red lips. Chairman of Gucci parent Kering Francois-Henri Pinault told reporters “Diversity is key to our collective intelligence.” They’ve already attempted to make a mends with the hip hop community and black designers by backing the genre’s original tailor Dapper Dan’s retail store in Harlem last year.
Gucci sales topped €8 billion ($9.03 billion) and millennials contributed heavily to this number, with 62% of its sales last year. Hip-hop is a powerful tool for reaching Generations Y and Z, who are expected to account for 45% of the global luxury spend by 2025, according to Bain & Co.