LONDON, United Kingdom — “It’s time you really investigate what these people are doing on behalf of your company… Gucci gets two thumbs down for lack of diversity,” said casting director James Scully, calling out the abuse and racial discrimination in the modelling industry as he sat alone in a chair on-stage at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in December, before an audience that included Gucci chief executive Marco Bizzarri.
So when “audition videos” of the nine models who appear in Gucci’s all-black Pre-Fall 2017 campaign appeared on Instagram and Twitter last Thursday, it seemed to mark a significant shift in direction for a brand that has, in recent seasons, rarely used more than one model of colour in its campaigns. The new videos showed the models — street cast by the same agency used by Hood By Air — talking about their “spirit animal,” discussing what it means to have soul and demonstrating their ability to dance.The full campaign, which is currently in production, will break in April.
When asked about the casting of the campaign, a spokesperson for Gucci said there had been no official change in policy, telling BoF: “Dance is an important part of this story and consequently the casting reflects this. However, it is also the case that [Gucci designer] Alessandro Michele has always celebrated diversity in all of its forms in his approach to his work.”
This campaign has the potential to be an amazing game changer.
Still, Scully was full of praise for the new campaign. “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… This could reset the damage done and start the business back on the road of inclusiveness. Bravo to Alessandro!”
Scully also noted the recent efforts of Prada, Saint Laurent, Vetements and Balenciaga to use a more diverse set of models, and that he was eagerly anticipating Raf Simons’ debut at Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week. “I truly hope he will do something that represents the diversity of this iconic American brand. His message can and will be very, very important.”
In a separate move, Gucci has also introduced a new policy prohibiting the casting of underage models. “Gucci has introduced a policy of not casting models for fashion shows or advertising campaigns under 18 years of age. We took the decision as we felt it incumbent upon us to establish a policy in this respect,” said the company’s spokesperson.
Since giving his VOICES talk in December, Scully has received feedback that has been "overwhelmingly positive" and has been working to gather a group of people from different parts of the industry to address the long-standing abuse of young girls and lack of diversity.
“That is my work in progress,” he said. “You can’t force people to do something they don’t believe in. I’d really like to see some character be allowed back into the industry, and enough diversity on all levels back from race to age and body size so you have the variety of choice rather than just trying to fill an outfit with a body. Designers are being more open than ever and we are also entering a new generation of designers for whom issues of race are less an issue than the generation now in charge.”
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the campaign was for Spring/Summer 2017. This has been amended to Pre-Fall 2017.