Contributing Authors

I think we all know that the Style writers for The New York Times are super-attuned to the intersections of fashion, commerce, racist iconography, and systems of oppression.  You may recall the infamous Adidas shackle sneakers of this past summer, and Lady Grey’s sophisticated analysis that anything with 38,000 likes on Facebook couldn’t possibly be racist.  

Indeed, when my Google alert for “Racist Iconography in Fashion” went off this morning over Dolce & Gabbana’s latest collection, NYT was the first place I looked to explain what all the fuss was about.

Here, O Reader, are some pictures from the collection: 

And here, Reader O’ Mine, is Suzy Menkes’ review:

Going to the Max: Dolce & Gabbana

MILAN — With a balcony lined with trailing ivy and upstanding cacti and the runway filled with references to colorful Sicilian markets, the Dolce & Gabbana show on Sunday was never going to be in the minimalist mode.

The spirit of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana is maxi — and the show was effusive in every way, from earrings that swung as giant raffia circles fancied up with pompoms, through prints of toy soldier puppets on silken sheaths.

It was back to Sicilian shores not for a lineup of noble sailors, as in the men’s wear line, but a passion for Italy’s south turned it into a rambunctious celebration and an art form.

But what was this? Plain navy stripes, like so many perambulating beach umbrellas? Simple A-line silhouettes?

The minimal moment did not last, as raffia came into play: woven or crocheted, printed, patterned and even turned into an airy body cage like a 21st century crinoline.

The imaginative elements came fast and furious — witty, ironic, funky — but always with a sense of proportion and style. The show was also, after so many solemn graphic presentations, fun, as the 1950s and ’60s crooner Domenico Modugno sang his heart out on the soundtrack. And when the models finally came out in their patterned beach wear, the music was inevitably that hymn to Mediterranean vacations: “Volare.”

Corny? Yes — but the design duo have the capacity to turn corn into woven raffia. It is a mark of a strong designer not to be swayed by fashion’s changes. So the Dolce & Gabbana show was a maximal success.

Ms. Menkes fails to mention the abundance of stereotypical, racist Blackamoor imagery featured on the clothing and accessories on display.  She fails to mention how this imagery became popular during the time of the Transatlantic slave trade when white people thought nothing of buying and selling African people, let alone trading in racist depictions of African peoples and culture.  For all her awareness of “colorful Sicilian markets,” Ms. Menkes has not a word for the history of slavery and forced African labor that produced the crops that filled those markets.  Menkes noticed the “earrings that swung as giant raffia circles” but failed to notice the African women’s HEADS that made up many of those giant earrings.  

Two white men from Italy dredged up racist and dehumanizing imagery, spiffed it up with raffia and A-line silhouettes, and sent it sashaying down a runway in order to turn a profit (once again) off the exploitation and degradation of black people, and The New York Times sat in the front row and clapped.  

This is usually where I write, Fuck You, Grey Lady, but somehow that doesn’t seem strong enough.

Shame on you, New York Times.  Seriously, shame on you.

— Julia Carrie Wong

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