Gucci has withdrawn a polo neck jumper from its shops after social media users said it resembled blackface.
The $890 (£689) “balaclava” knit, part of the autumn/winter 2018 collection, covers the bottom half of the face and has a cutout mouth with large red lips.
On Wednesday, Twitter and Instagram users posted pictures of the jumper, with several pointing to the fact it was currently Black History Month in the US.
One person tweeted: “Balaclava knit top by Gucci. Happy Black History Month y’all.”
Another blamed a lack of diversity at the brand:
On Wednesday night, the Italian brand apologised and said the jumper would be removed from its website. Gucci said: “We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization [sic].”
It said it would turn the incident “into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team”, adding it was “fully committed to increasing diversity”.
The blackface row is the latest in a string of race-related incidents involving luxury fashion brands. In December, Prada withdrew several items over concerns they too depicted blackface. The brand pulled a series of keychains from its Pradamalia line that appeared to resemble black monkeys with exaggerated red lips.
In November, Dolce Gabbana postponed a fashion show in Shanghai after accusations of racism. In the run-up to the event the label had released a promotional video featuring a Chinese model eating Italian foods such as pizza and pasta with chopsticks. The image led to a backlash in China and several retailers withdrew the brand’s products.
Although the balaclava jumper has been removed from all sites, the product information archived online reads: “Inspired by vintage ski masks, multicolored [sic] knitted balaclavas walked the runway, adding a mysterious feel to this collection.
“The fall/winter 2018 runway show space reflected the stark environment of an operating room, emulating the theme of the collection where reconstructing materials and fabrics created a new identity.”
On Wednesday, Gucci was named the hottest brand on the planet by Lyst, the influential fashion search platform. Gucci’s success in recent years has been attributed to its creative director, Alessandro Michele, who joined the company in 2015.
Gucci could not be reached for further comment.