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Last August Jamie Cantave, a 34-year-old from Brooklyn, purchased the Gucci Cities T-shirt on Matches.com for $550. The garment, emblazoned with Gucci in rainbow-colored font placed above a list of major cities, could, funnily enough, reflect unity amid differences.
Cantave bought it because he liked the colors and it seemed unique. This was before Gucci released a blackface-reminiscent balaclava sweater earlier this year, which resulted in backlash across the internet. T.I. started a Gucci boycott that some agreed with and some didn't. Lil Pump said he would continue to perform "Gucci Gang" but wouldn't support the label, while Floyd Mayweather dismissed the boycott altogether. But whether a boycott happened or not, a conversation about how luxury brands consider—or don't consider—people of color began.
"There is nothing else I have talked about for the last few weeks," said Thomai Serdari, an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business and a brand strategist at Brand(x)Lux. "I think in the U.S. we thrive on tension, and we can make a lot of progress by negotiating and changing how corporations behave in the market."
"I'm selling it because I wore it already." - JamIE cantave
Cantave, who is black, put the T-shirt he purchased on eBay last month to sell for $280, but it wasn't because he was boycotting the brand.
"I'm selling it because I wore it already," said Cantave. "And I'm not going to stop wearing it because black people decide when they want to boycott something. It's just an excuse to not pay for something expensive. I personally feel like they weren't trying to be racist, honestly."
Cantave's T-shirt is one of the many Gucci items for sale on resale sites, which are typically a barometer for what brands are hot. EBay declined to offer any numbers about how or if sales have been impacted by the design mishap, but according to StockX, even with the controversy, Gucci is still very desirable.
Comparing numbers from two weeks prior to the scandal and two weeks after, StockX found that Gucci bids for handbags, accessories, and sneakers increased by 10 percent, and orders increased by 23 percent. Katie Booth, StockX's market manager of bags and accessories, said that this could mean customers are getting rid of Gucci—StockX has no way to tell—but it's still a top-three-selling line on the site, alongside Louis Vuitton and MCM.
GOAT said data on Gucci over the past few weeks was inconclusive. The team at Grailed looked at sales, listings sold, average listed price, average sold price, and number of deleted or hidden listings, and concluded that Gucci numbers seemed relatively unaffected. Gucci's logo currently sits atop Grailed's homepage as one of its best-selling brands.
A Grailed user who didn't want to offer his name, sold his Gucci Dapper Dan pool slides because he already has a few different pairs and he "doesn't need that many flip flops." He received 14 offers on the slides and ended up selling them for $104. They were originally around $300.
Jamez Kinnard, a 24-year-old living in New York, has decided to boycott Gucci altogether and is in the process of selling all his Gucci pieces on Grailed.
"I told the sales associate that I work with at Gucci that I’m not purchasing it anymore, and she was devastated," said Kinnard, who is receiving multiple offers on Grailed for his gently worn Gucci. "I was starting to sell a lot of things before the blackface incident, but afterwards I told myself I'm not going to patronize this brand. I'm buying Virgil [Abloh] for Louis Vuitton instead."
New York's Round Two is still posting Gucci products to its Instagram account, which lists its most popular items. The postings have elicited different responses. Lots of "fuck Gucci" in all caps, and other more measured comments like "Messy AF. I thought y'all would be better than this," and "I don't mind y'all just ignoring the whole boycott Gucci thing on some Floyd shit but y'all could at least drop your prices a bit."
Celebrities are still wearing the brand. Billie Eilish wore a fleece jacket and cargo pants updated with Gucci monogram fabric from Vandy and Pink on Sneaker Shopping. LeBron James is still wearing a pair of Gucci acid wash jeans off court—it seems like he purchased them last year, prior to the controversy. And Young Thug wore the blackface balaclava sweater that triggered all of the outrage to the studio.
"I want Gucci to behave like a startup and show me every single person who works for the company."
- Jamez kinnard
Ernest B. James, who owns Noire Management, a firm that manages multicultural influencers, feels differently about buying the brand, but doesn't see the logic in destroying it or getting rid of what he acquired pre-blackface balaclava.
"I think there is a sentiment of like, can we all agree that anything pre-blackface is approved?" said James. "For black people, we aren't going to waste our hard-earned money that allowed us to have something better. I might put the brand on the backburner, but I'm not going to stop wearing something that was purchased when things were cool."
Serdari isn't entirely surprised that sales of Gucci on resale sites haven't changed much.
"I think a lot of the clients who buy Gucci are very young. Some of them are completely clueless, and if it doesn't affect them personally, they may have dismissed it very quickly,” she said. “And a lot of people who buy Gucci are foreigners with different perspectives who might not understand how offensive the sweater was."
Serdari also said that because fashion companies release six to eight collections a year, it's easy for consumers to forget a mistake if the brand continues to make new product that is well designed, interesting, and politically correct.
Gucci did quickly address the racially offensive sweater by apologizing, pulling it from its site, and meeting with Dapper Dan. They also revealed plans to "embed cultural diversity and awareness in the company" through a multicultural design scholarship program, and to launch a diversity and inclusivity awareness program, along with a global exchange program.
As more luxury brands court influencers of color like Dapper Dan, who help mitigate these crises when they happen, James said he's reevaluating his clients' brand contracts and partnerships.
"In most contracts, brands say that if an influencer or model does anything that's considered felonious, the brand can opt out of paying that influencer for any of the left over work that’s been commissioned," said James. "But now I'm advising my clients that we need a clause that says if this brand gets their hand slapped for something, the influencer or talent needs to be in the clear. We need to make sure the brand will either still pay for the sponsored content the talent created or take it down if the client needs to disassociate from the brand."
For Cantave, Gucci's apology and its diversity initiatives are enough to keep him as a customer.
"One of their creative guys is Dapper Dan and I heard they had a meeting and they apologized, so alright, I'm over it," said Cantave. "When a person comes out of jail they want another chance, so why can't Gucci get another chance?"
Kinnard, on the other hand, needs more than an apology.
"I feel like a lot of brands respond to mistakes they made with these little initiatives, but then, behind closed doors, they go back to doing what they were doing. The real change is going to happen when different types of people are in the boardrooms," said Kinnard. "I want Gucci to behave like a startup and show me every single person who works for the company on their website. That’s when I will start buying from the brand again."