Dolce & Gabbana has been mired in more than its fair share of controversy — yet it's still a bit surprising, and certainly disappointing, when this type of thing happens yet again. The Italian fashion house's latest misstep: a pair of pom-pom accented leather shoes available on its website dubbed the "slave sandal." The four-figure footwear is a part of Dolce & Gabbana's spring '16 tourist-inspired collection, and the shoe's name has since been changed to "Decorative Flat Sandal." (You can see a screenshot of its cringe-y original classification here and below.) In the item's description, the sandals in question are called "Bianca flat sandals" — no mention of "slave." The same style is also available for pre-order at Moda Operandi and Saks Fifth Avenue, but neither retailer uses the word "slave" to describe the pair. Footwear News reports that the term is an outdated descriptor for a lace-up sandal silhouette, now more commonly referred to as gladiator. We have reached out to Dolce & Gabbana for comment, and will update this story when we hear back.
The spring '16 collection, Dolce & Gabbana's site reads, is a "declaration of love to Italy, told through unique clothing and accessories on an imaginary journey through the wonders of this country." Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's ode to Sicily (where Dolce is from) for spring '13 was also quite contentious: The brand sent a pair of "blackamoor" earrings down the runway — a decision that the designers went on to defend despite public complaint. There was a similar situation on the newsstand in 2011: Vogue Italia ran an editorial featuring oversized golden hoops it described as "slave earrings." The publication's editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, later apologized, citing mistranslation. Dolce & Gabbana has made a few relatively progressive moves over the past few months, following a series of missteps in the last couple of years (including the blackamoor earrings and the designers' very poorly received comments on same-sex couples having children through adoption and IVF). In January, the brand revealed its first collection of hijabs and abayas. Shortly after, Gabbana teased a capsule collection with the hashtag #DGFamily, depicting same-sex couples and their children on handbags and T-shirts. As innocuous as the erstwhile name of a pair of sandals might seem, it's a stumble that, unfortunately, detracts from the sligthly more positive inroads D&G has made recently.