Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabanna says it meant no disrespect by sending what many have characterized as racist imagery down its runway.
The company’s Spring 2013 collection included ‘Blackamoor’ or ‘Moorish’ symbolism in the form of the heads of black women used in dangling earrings and on the printed fabrics of dresses. The image conjured up bygone days of colonialism and slavery that were reminiscent of an era of Western history most Europeans are either trying to forget or repeat.
The ensuing international controversy has prompted an explanation from Dolce & Gabanna on its website, Swide.com. The company says the decorative art pieces are a part of the Sicilian culture.
“You might have seen them in some villa or restaurant or hotel in Sicily, dominating the table: colorful head-shaped ceramic vases filled with beautiful flowers,” the article on Swide tried to explain. “But like many things in Italy, they are more than what they seem.
“The head is inspired by Moorish features,” the explanation continues. “Moorish is a term used to define many peoples throughout history. Medieval and early modern Europeans applied the name to the Berbers, Arabs, Muslim Iberians and West Africans, although it has to be said that the term ‘Moorish’ has no real ethnological value. In Sicily’s case, it defines the conquerors of Sicily. The first Muslim conquest of southern Italy lasted 75 years, from 827 to 902 AD.”
No matter the company’s intent, the use of Black people in this degrading and subservient manner to make money is wrong, as it conjures up images of a time when Blacks were considered inferior, as personified by the characters of Mammy, Sambo, and the dehumanizing Golliwogg doll.
Dolce & Gabbana might think all things ‘Moorish’ are festive, but the company should have known better because the images are generally seen as taboo, offensive and racially insensitive.