(Gray News) - Italian luxury brand Gucci has promised to increase diversity after social media users said its black wool sweater that appears to feature oversized red lips resembles historically racist depictions of black people.
In a Wednesday tweet, Gucci apologized for “the offense caused” by the sweater. The top, which has been removed from the brand’s online and physical stores, is a black turtleneck that pulls up over the bottom half of the face, like a balaclava.
The area around the mouth features what look like oversized red lips surrounding a cutout for the customer’s own lips.
Social media users, particularly those on Twitter, criticized the design, saying it resembled blackface.
Many also pointed out the incident occurred during February, which is observed as Black History Month in the United States and Canada.
“We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make,” said Gucci in its apology. "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."
In December, fellow fashion brand Prada stopped selling a line of accessories that featured a character with brown skin and exaggerated red lips after complaints they resembled blackface, the Associated Press reports.
The controversy also comes as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, faces criticism for a 1984 photo from his medical school’s yearbook page that shows one person in blackface and another in a KKK robe.
Northam admitted to wearing a racist costume in that photo on Friday, WWBT reports, but on Saturday, he said he wasn’t in the photo.
Several lawmakers have called on Northam to resign, among them Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, who admitted Wednesday that he dressed in blackface for a 1980 college party.
Herring has also been called on to resign. He stepped down as the co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association after releasing the Wednesday statement, according to WWBT.