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Gucci apologizes after social media users say sweater resembles blackface

Posted at 3:44 PM, Feb 07, 2019

Gucci has apologized and discontinued selling a sweater that social media users said resembles blackface because of its design.

In a Twitter post Wednesday, the Italian luxury brand said it "deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper."

The top, which is no longer on the company's website, is a black turtleneck sweater that pulls up over the bottom half of the face with a cut out and oversized red lips around the mouth.

"We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores," Gucci said in a statement on Wednesday. "We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond."

The sweater had been slammed on social media, with Twitter users saying it resembled blackface and expressing emotions ranging from exasperation to outrage.

"Today Gucci released their Balaclava Knit Top. Sigh. Really Gucci? Really?" Keisha Ka'oir tweeted.

Michael Bonner tweeted his frustration at the constant depiction of racist imagery in the news recently.

"One day I am going to deliver a prolific dissertation on how it feels to live in a continuous cycle of disrespect as a black man," he said. "Gigantic brands like @gucci create offensive "fashion", quickly apologize, and then state, 'We did not know." I don't care. This is unacceptable."

One user noted that the controversy was taking place during Black History Month and expressed skepticism that it would stop people from buying the brand.

This is not the first time a fashion brand has been accused of using such imagery. Last year, luxury fashion house Prada said it withdrew products after some items displayed in a Manhattan storefront were seen as depicting blackface imagery. The products, part of Prada's Pradamalia line, were pulled after images surfaced of some merchandise depicting monkey-like figures with black faces and large red lips.

The latest controversy also comes as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing criticism and calls to resign because of a photograph on his page in his medical school's yearbook showing one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.

Northam initially apologized for the photo , saying he was in it, without specifying which person he was. He later denied he was in the yearbook photo but admitted he had once dressed in blackface during a dance contest in San Antonio.

Northam met Wednesday with Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Dr. Charles Steele Jr. and Dr. Bernard LaFayette, chairman of the SCLC board, two well-known black leaders from a group once led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The meeting was an effort to better understand how he can move past the scandal that has engulfed his office, an adviser to the Democrat tells CNN.