prada creates diversity council led by ava duvernay and theaster gates
February 27, 2019
As we stare down the finish line of a particularly trying Black History Month, Black people have to carry on with life as Black people while the many brands that strut their racism down catwalks have to deal with the backlash of profiting off of racist tropes. Namely, a brand like Prada, who in response to their own racist Blackface storefront snafu have just announced Ava DuVernay and Theaster Gates as the Co-Chairs of a new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, reports Elle.
According to a press release by Prada, the council will “elevate voices of color within the company and the fashion industry at-large.” Miuccia Prada, Chief Executive Officer and Lead Creative Director at Prada said. “Prada is committed to cultivating, recruiting and retaining diverse talent to contribute to all departments of the company,” while also promising to help transform the fashion industry into a reflection “of the world in which we live.”
This feels like a silver-lining on the dark cloud of “black faces” that haunted Black History Month, however, we can’t forget that large companies profit off of our rage and they profit when they get progressive — see Nike and Colin Kaepernick.
Ava Duvernay is a world-class, award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker and activist. Theaster Gates is a groundbreaking installation artist, professor and the Executive Director of Chicago-based art-based cultural development organization Rebuild Foundation. Gates and Duvernay dedicate their lives and livelihoods to amplifying forgotten voices through their mediums and their input will undoubtedly be valuable in their newfound roles. This is why it is important to pay attention to the promises made by Prada and fashion houses atoning with initiatives and scholarships to diversify the industry.
There seems to be a growing virtual handshake agreement that apologies are only meaningful when they are backed by action. Gucci managed to affirm that as a large fashion house that sought the opinions of collaborator Dapper Dan and a host of corporate professionals as well as experts in inclusivity. The designer posted a personal statement on Instagram, accompanied by an official apology and a comprehensive action plan that will facilitate and fund global scholarships, internships and job opportunities with the purpose of diversifying the Gucci workforce. The programs are geared towards getting “corporate office employees [who] will improve their cultural sensitivity and will consequently be able to integrate these insights into the company’s ways of working,” according to the statement.
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Apologies alone are no longer enough and it is refreshing to see this adopted by companies as big as Prada and Gucci. Right now, we wait and watch these initiatives unfold in hopes that this isn’t an empty gesture wrapped in progressive language. We err on the side of hope, rooting for DuVernay and Gates to push the kind of reform Prada cannot run away from, living in hope that these respected Black figures aren’t just another pair of Black faces used to achieve another agenda. Once again, only time will tell…
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