I’m not really sure who’s running Dolce & Gabbana‘s PR department at the moment, but they deserve either a sharp slap across the face or, at the very least, a stern talking to. First there was the very thinly-veiled attempt to make up for the designers’ past homophobic remarks with their collection of handbags and t-shirts featuring same-sex parents and their kids, and now, they’ve taken yet another bad step in a completely different direction. They named one of their new spring shoes the “Slave Sandal.” Seriously. I’m not joking. Someone in 2016 thought that this was a good idea.
Stupidity like this truly has to be seen to be believed, so here’s a screengrab from the listing for the shoe as it currently stands on Dolce & Gabbana’s website:
Because there’s nothing more fashionable than slavery, am I right?
I know, I felt gross even writing that sarcastically. The additional awkwardness (and that’s putting it lightly) is twofold: 1) The D&G site called the spring 2016 collection a “declaration of love to Italy,” and I’m not entirely sure where alluding to slavery plays into that; and 2) As you can see, this shoe is referred to in the description as the “Bianca flat sandal,” meaning that there was LITERALLY NO REASON to call it a slave sandal. They just did it because they could and/or because Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have absolutely no awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate or acceptable.
In a moment of devil’s advocacy, Footwear News reports that the term “slave sandal” actually refers to a particular type of lace-up sandal silhouette, which has since been replaced in the mainstream with the much more familiar and far less offensive “gladiator sandal.” And, if you go to other retailers to shop this particular shoe, like Saks Fifth Avenue, for instance, these D&G shoes are simply called “Pom-Pom Leather Lace-Up Sandals,” no “slave” included. Since I’m not in the minds of the PR team at Saks, I can’t say for sure whether this was a tactical decision on their part to not include such an offensive name on their site or if the whole “slave sandal” thing is a technical misstep on the part of the D&G site. Given their proclivity toward political incorrectness, though, I’m guessing not.
You would think that Dolce and Gabbana would know better by now, especially after all the backlash they’ve received over the past few years. I suppose it’s not entirely surprising, though—the designers are prone to mild idiocy, what with the offensive earrings at their 2013 spring runway show and their aforementioned homophobic and anti-IVF comments.
There’s a very fine line between rocking the boat and shaking up the fashion industry and actively offending entire cultural groups, which, while that may not have been the conscious intent, has definitely been the result. It’s such an easy thing not to do, too, which is what makes this all so dumb. Like, who signed off on these shoes and thought, “Yeah, no one will be bothered by slavery references, people are SO over that.” Frankly, this is just another nail in Dolce & Gabbana’s coffin for me. While the fashion house likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon—their legacy seems stronger than their apparent cultural insensitivity—they’re going to need to do some serious soul-searching if they want to maintain their audience.