CULTURE

Recent Brand Collabs Better than Gucci x Balenciaga

The Gucci x Balenciaga pieces in the latest Gucci show feel gauche. Here are some cooler collaborations to shop

Blazer from the Gucci x Balenciaga collection

Gucci presented their first collection of their centennial season on April 15th through a fashion film.

The collection, entitled "ARIA," was replete with references to designers, trends, and pieces past. Notably, the collection also featured a collaboration with Balenciaga.

Both members of the Kering group (aka the Gucci Group) — one of the two major fashion conglomerates alongside LVMH — Gucci and Balenciaga are always battling for the top spot amongst luxury brands. With this collection, Gucci combined elements from Balenciaga in a process Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele described as "hacking."

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Culture News

European Panel Officially Rules that We Are All Banksy Now

Now that Banksy's "Flower Thrower" trademark has been revoked, anyone can profit off his work.

This week anonymous street artist Banksy officially lost the European trademark to his "Flower Thrower" mural.

The guerrilla graffiti artist had engaged in a prolonged legal battle with the small greeting card company Full Colour Black—which was selling products featuring the image of a Palestinian man throwing a bouquet of flowers. But now a panel at the European Union Intellectual Property Office has announced their decision to revoke the artist's trademark on the grounds that he could not definitively prove himself to be the mural's creator.

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Lizzo dazzled on her SNL debut this weekend, but fans might have noticed another source of energy and talent emanating from next to the "Truth Hurts" singer as she belted out her tunes.

That would be Celisse Henderson, who shredded on guitar as Lizzo sang.

Lizzo: Truth Hurts (Live) - SNL www.youtube.com

Henderson is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who is a member of the band Ghosts of the Forest. She took center stage during Lizzo's performance, adding a layer of gritty, bluesy rock to the unbelievably catchy song about getting over a man who doesn't deserve you.

Henderson styled her look and guitar after the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose gospel and blues recordings were instrumental in shaping rock and roll. As one of the first guitarists to use distortion, she inspired many blues and rock players, and her voice and stage presence helped make her a star.

Seeing Lizzo's pristine, very 21st-century pop mixed with a tribute to one of the greatest rock and roll guitarists of all time gave scope and depth to the performance and helped make it the unforgettable showstopper that it was.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Up Above My Head www.youtube.com






Celisse Henderson - Stuck On You Blues | Sofar NYC www.youtube.com


Lizzo, who took to the stage covered in head-to-toe Gucci and hit stratospheric notes from start to finish, also posted a heart-warming tribute to her journey.

Between Henderson's masterful guitar playing, Lizzo's unbelievable pipes and stage presence, and the dancers that lit up the stage, it was a performance to remember.

Lizzo's sets were highlights of Eddie Murphy's star-studded, highly acclaimed, and hilarious SNL episode, which also braided tributes to icons of the past (like Gumby, dammit) with very modern humor.

Eddie Murphy Monologue - SNL www.youtube.com

CULTURE

The Story Behind Gucci's Plagiarism of Disabled Artist Sharona Franklin

Gucci should practice what it preaches instead of performing false advocacy while stealing people's work.

For a few weeks, Sharona Franklin thought she was going to be working with Gucci.

Franklin is a Vancouver-based artist who creates jelly cakes embellished with delicate botanical arrangements and distinctive beading patterns, among other works of art. A disabled woman living in social housing, Franklin makes artwork that is intended to subvert stereotypes about domestic practices while dismantling disability stigmas. It focuses on themes ranging from transhumanism and bioethics to genetic engineering, medical treatments, and reproductive agency.

Her work bridges tradition with futurism; It's biodegradable and edible and yet impossibly delicate and intricate. It's a testament to art's ability to mold the ugliness of capitalism into something both meaningful and ephemeral. In recent years she's gained a following on Instagram and has received recognition for her work from outlets including The New York Times.


Her interactions with Gucci officially began on May 9th, when she received an email inviting her to collaborate with a "large Italian fashion house." After several exchanges, she was contacted by a team from Gucci which included Trevor De Cotta, Bicci Paola, and Alessio Canu, who said they wanted to use Franklin's work as a part of their SS 2020 Cruise.

Franklin scheduled a call with the representatives May 17th, and that same day, she sent them a signed NDA. The call was moved to the 20th, at which point she talked on the phone with De Cotta. "During the phone call with Trevor [De Cotta], I explained my inspiration for my work, how I'm influenced by 70's aesthetics, botanicals, domestic practice and social action," she told Popdust. "I talked with them about using Gucci ribbons, belts and buckles with vintage sourced platters, recycled materials which I always use, and botanicals and baby's breath."

During the call, De Cotta provided more details about the event's location, dates, and requirements. Franklin requested two days to make the cakes on location in Rome, and the Gucci team promised to respond with flight dates and a contract.

On June 10th, Franklin received an email from De Cotta asking about the exact dates she could come to Italy to work. She responded that day and waited ten days, but never heard back. She followed up on June 19th, and received a response on June 22nd, which read, "Due to the budget they are looking into someone else to execute this in Europe, as I mentioned initially we were speaking to a few people about the jelly concept. Unfortunately we [can't] make it work this time, perhaps there may be something in the future." No budget had ever been discussed with Franklin, and "that was the last I heard from the Gucci team," she said.

Dangling a collaboration before an artist for such an extended period of time only to revoke it with little explanation is poor form for Gucci, a company that certainly has the resources to vet and correspond quickly with its collaborators. Still, perhaps this would not be a cause for extensive controversy had Gucci not copied Franklin's work.

On October 8, Gucci posted images of the jelly cake creations they ended up using in the cruise campaign. The jellies they used were developed by another artist named David James White, who deleted his posts once comments about the plagiarism started flooding in. Popdust reached out to White for comment but did not receive a response.

Though White deleted the images, they remain on Gucci's official Instagram account, and Franklin is certain that Gucci plagiarized her work. "All elements of my work were stolen by Gucci, [including] composition, color choices, the mold shapes, fabric choices, jellies including the inlays, putting items in them and with fake, dried and fresh flowers and vintage silver platters," she said. "Gucci even copied my words in my interview with The Know Culture in which I talk about my jellies being inspired by the 70's aesthetics, bionic adaptations, herbal medicine, conviviality and fancy dinners."

You can see the creations side by side here:





After being asked several times about whether her work had been stolen, Franklin posted an Instagram story about what happened. The controversy was picked up by various accounts online, including the famous Diet Prada, but Gucci has not deleted the photos of its jellies or apologized for its actions.

It's well known that fashion companies copy and steal from artists who often lack the resources to take effective legal action, but this is especially hypocritical from a company like Gucci, which has clearly been attempting to brand itself as a socially responsible, ethical fashion brand. Gucci's newest initiative, "The Changemakers," is an attempt to perform a kind of diversity that the brand has clearly been failing to back up with tangible action or adequate compensation.

When multibillion dollar companies like Gucci steal from artists like Franklin, it's a shame, but not entirely a surprise, as Gucci has faced controversy and plagiarism accusations before. In 2017, they were accused of ripping off Harlem couturier Dapper Dan and faced accusations from two separate designers, Stuart Smythe and Milan Chagoury. That same year, they were also accused of stealing the work of a young artist named Pierre-Louis Avery, a claim that Alessandro Michele denied.

Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele has also openly advocated for plagiarism in the name of artistic practice. While this philosophy is entangled with complex questions about authenticity, originality, and ethics in the art world, it should never permit a massive fashion house to steal from individual artists, particularly disabled artists who already face stacked odds from a system that perpetually threatens their survival and quality of life.

For her part, Franklin has some suggestions for Gucci. "I think they need to reconsider the way that they communicate, the way the industry is set up, the way that bodies are dehumanized, the way that production is dehumanized, I think all that's really important," she told Fashion Magazine. "And the way they outsource work—a lot of artists are getting ripped off, a lot of third-world workers are being exploited. All of that needs to change."

When asked what she wants from the company, Franklin's answer was simple. "I would like to be financially compensated and apologized to by Gucci," she told Popdust. "I'm a disabled artist and live under the poverty line. Disabled artists live in extreme disadvantage in the workplace, fashion, and art community. This is intellectual property theft and plagiarism of a disabled artist. It's unjust and morally corrupt. Gucci is a $47.8 billion dollar corporation. Saying the Gucci production budget could not afford me is a blatant lie."

In the meantime, she's continued to create undeterred. When we reached out to Franklin for comment, she was in the middle of making a cake.

CULTURE

Versace, Givenchy, Gucci, and Coach Apologize to China

The companies have come under fire on Chinese social media platforms for anti-nationalistic products.

Over the weekend, Versace posted a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries from China.

Immediately, the shirts generated backlash from China's Sina Weibo social media network.

In response, China's Versace ambassador, Yang Mi, terminated her contract with the company. "China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times," read a statement posted by her agency.

Following the outcry, the / other similar high fashion companies Coach and Givenchy came under fire for similar mishaps. Both labels have previously released clothing that lists Hong Kong as a separate nation, and a Coach shirt also implied that Taiwan—considered a province by Beijing—was a separate country. Gucci has also come under fire for listing Hong Kong as a separate country on a drop-down menu on their website.

In response, Givenchy ambassador Jackson Yee, a member of the boy band TFBoys, also severed fashion ties with the brand. Today, a hashtag on Weibo calling for a boycott of Coach has been read over a billion times.

All the brands have posted social media apologies, including Donatella Versace, who captioned a picture of herself on Instagram, "Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused."



The backlash comes during a period when China's national sovereignty and unity are under fire. For over ten weeks, widespread and sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests have torn through Hong Kong, resisting a bill proposed by the territory's chief executive Carrie Lam, which threatened to allow authorities to prosecute criminals in mainland China instead of Hong Kong.

Read more about the Hong Kong protests here.

Fashion Mishaps: Symptoms of a Larger Problem?

Though they come at a particularly sensitive time, these mistakes have not happened in a vacuum: They are a symptom of the fashion industry's lack of diversity. In recent months, companies including Chanel and Gucci have appointed their first heads of diversity and inclusion, perhaps at last becoming aware that with the help of social media, racist fashion products can no longer be brushed under the rug. (Chanel has come under fire once again for appointing a white woman as head of its diversity department, leading to even more social media criticism).

Other high-profile gaffes from fashion companies include the time when Dolce and Gabbana faced fire for portraying a Chinese model eating with chopsticks, when Gucci merch resembled blackface, and when Kim Kardashian West's beauty line briefly co-opted the name "Kimono."

Social media accounts such as Diet Prada have helped call out racism that has long been part of the fabric of the fashion industry, which has long cherry-picked styles from cultural stereotypes. "The nationalist sentiment has been rising in recent years. All aspects of the fashion industry need to be thinking about this at every level, that is, this decision, this product, whether this kind of marketing will cause a public opinion crisis related to nationalism," said Joyce Xu, the Executive Editor of Chinese digital business publication Jiemian.

In today's hyper-surveilled social media age, even fashion brands and celebrities must be aware that each of their actions—or lack thereof—is fundamentally political, especially during a time of upheaval like the one that China is experiencing. "In general there has been a bit of a shift from the government, basically saying, 'If you are going to be a celebrity and make money being a celebrity, that's ok, however, you have to live up to the ideals of the [Communist] Party and if you do anything counter to that, we are going to be taking a very close look at everything going on in your life. Celebrities are being extremely careful right now," said Mark Tanner, the managing director of a Chinese insight-marketing agency. It's clear that fashion brands need to follow suit.

Culture Feature

Wear Whatever You Want. Fashion is Dead.

We unpack the rise and fall of American haute couture.

As Carrie Bradshaw famously said, "Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future. This is known as FASHION WEEK."

While any real New Yorker knows that Sex and The City is a rose-colored depiction of the cockroach-filled-hellhole we happily call home, surely the show at least nailed its representation of fashion week. After all, it's a week devoted to all things shiny and inaccessible: beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes in elegant rooms with mysterious locations. Yeah, someone vomited on your Reeboks on the L train during your commute home to your 4th-floor walk up, but surely, despite all the things New York turned out not to be, it's still this one thing: the home of high fashion and unimaginable glamor.

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