Gucci got a lot of attention earlier this year when it teased the audition tapes for its upcoming pre-fall '17 campaign, which profiled exclusively Black models. The highly-anticipated product of said casting, creative-directed by Alessandro Michele and photographed by Glen Luchford, was finally released today.
According to a press release, Gucci's new campaign, titled "Soul Scene," draws from the 2016 exhibit at the London's Photographer's Gallery called Made You Look, which highlighted Black masculinity and dandyism in the early 21st century, as well as the work of Malian portraitist Malick Sidibeì and the underground Northern Soul movement in 1960s England. As such, the campaign is set in a dancehall, where the models party while decked out in Gucci pre-fall '17.
Check out the full spread in the slideshow, ahead.
This story was originally published on January 31, 2017.
Designer Alessandro Michele has received almost universal praise since taking the creative helm of Gucci two years ago. The bold new aesthetic direction of the luxury house was certainly a shift — but the casting of mostly Caucasian models on the catwalk didn't exactly match the progressive nature of Michele's designs. The designer is aware of the criticism, though, as the brand's shows have become increasingly more diverse throughout the seasons. And, from the look of Gucci's Instagram, it seems he's taking representation very seriously come pre-fall: A series of teaser videos posted to the brand's social accounts last week show the casting call for Gucci's new campaign, which will be unveiled fully in April — and depict black models exclusively.
These "audition videos" were filmed in London, and feature nine models street cast by Midland Agency (the same agency used by Hood By Air) being interviewed by agents. While Gucci didn't immediately confirm that the people profiled on its Instagram were confirmed for the campaign, it signified a seismic shift for a luxury brand that just a few weeks ago was given "two thumbs down for lack of diversity" by casting director James Scully at Business of Fashion's Voices symposium. A representative for Gucci told BoF that the the casting for pre-fall '17 was primarily concerned with dance, but "Alessandro Michele has always celebrated diversity in all of its forms in his approach to his work."
If all nine models make it onto the final lineup, Gucci's pre-fall campaign could be a notable turning point for an industry that is notoriously unrepresentative. Sure, brands like Zac Posen, Ashish, Yeezy, and Balmain consistently celebrate and champion diversity on the catwalk, but the alarming dearth of non-white models on the runway continues to be a problem each Fashion Month. (Demna Gvasalia, a designer internationally lauded for subverting tradition with his thought-provoking designs at Vetements and Balenciaga, is a notorious offender here).
Though Gucci's move to recognize black models ought to be applauded, it's not a quick fix to a systemic issue — plus, the fact that one of the questions the models were asked in the video was the culturally-appropriative "What is your spirit animal?" proves that there's more work to be done in terms of inclusivity. Also, one could argue that there's a double-standard at play here, as Kanye West was quickly criticized when he requested only "multiracial" models for Yeezy Season 4: Is there a reason Michele hasn't been called out for the very same reason? However this plays out, we hope this isn't a one-time stunt from the Italian fashion house, but rather a first step towards continuous (and growing) representation in its imagery.
Even Scully, who previously criticized Gucci's whitewashed campaigns, is impressed with this move. "It has the potential to be an amazing game-changer,” he told BoF. "There is only a handful of designers at one time that dictates what the idea of beauty is through their shows and advertising. And since this is a business of followers, it’s incredibly important the tone they set especially when the world is watching you." Scully added that it may even "reset the damage done" by previous lack of representation, and set a new tone of inclusivity moving forward.
Let's hope 2017 is the year that more fashion brands catch up and finally make a united effort to diversify advertising. It's been too long of a time coming.