Toronto, Ontario Louis Vuitton has pulled a sweater it claimed was inspired by the national flag of Jamaica after social media users pointed out that the item featured the wrong colours.
The menswear design, which retailed for more than $1,700 (£995) before being removed from Louis Vuitton’s online store, featured three wide stripes in green, yellow and red. However, the Jamaican national flag is green, yellow and black.
The sweater’s incorrect design was reportedly first called out by the fashion critic Twitter account @pam_boy.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to implement diversity as a value and not a symbol within fashion companies,” the user tweeted along with a photo of the sweater next to the Jamaican flag for comparison.
The account pointed out that the sweater looked closer to the design of the Rastafarian flag, a religious movement with roots in Jamaica, rather than the country’s official flag.
Others were quick to take to social media to criticize the brand, accusing Louis Vuitton of using Jamaican culture to make a profit.
“So no one at Louis Vuitton googled the Jamaican flag?” Twitter user Black Women Matter wrote.
Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley, also commented on the sweater. She posted an unimpressed photo of her father on Instagram with the caption, “Bob says that’s the Ethiopian flag @Louisvuitton,” along with an embarrassed face emoji.
When the item first appeared online, the product description reportedly said that the striped design was “inspired by Caribbean island’s national flag.” After social media users began noting the error, Louis Vuitton remove the word “flag” in the sweater’s description and swapped it with “cultural heritage,” before removing the product from its website altogether.
As of Sunday, links to the sweater’s page result in a “404 page not found” error message. Louis Vuitton did not immediately respond to CTVNews.ca‘s request for comment.
Brian A. Richards, a contract lecturer at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion, told CTVNews.ca that fashion labels are trying to better relate to Black people and their various cultures, but make mistakes like this because their attempts at being relatable are “inauthentic.”
“One way to sort of make it authentic is to have these creators, these BIPOC individuals at the table from the point of conception,” Richards said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Richards noted that Louis Vuitton’s creative director, Virgil Abloh, is the son of Ghanaian parents, but said that just because Abloh is Black does not mean he knows everything about all Black cultures.
“Virgil, he’s of African descent, but he doesn’t know everything about Jamaica, and Jamaicans alternatively you don’t know everything about people from Ghana,” Richards said.
He explained that “Black people are not a monolith,” and are themselves working to understand the various cultures that are represented under the umbrella of being Black.
“The Black community has been so entangled in educating non-Black people, because that’s kind of where we’re at right now… But I would argue that the Black community has not had the opportunity to explore its own history,” Richards said.
To help address this in fashion, Richards said brands need to not only hire more Black people, but also consult and engage with the Black community on its decisions in “behind-the-scenes conversations” through marketing, public relations, and social media engagement.
This is not the first time that a luxury fashion house has produced culturally offensive items. Gucci pulled a wool sweater from its stores last year after complaints that its oversized collar resembled blackface makeup, while Burberry apologized for putting a hoodie with strings tied in the shape of a noose on its London Fashion Week runway.
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