Loius Vuitton recently found itself at the center of controversy after it was discovered that the brand was selling a sweater supposedly designed after the Jamaican flag, except that it had the incorrect colors.
The $1,366 men’s Jamaican Stripe Jumper pullover’s product description originally read, “With striped design inspired by Caribbean island’s national flag.”
Fashion journalist @pam_boy pointed out the faux pas on Twitter with a screenshot of the now-defunct product page, writing, “I cannot stress enough how important it is to implement diversity as a value and not a symbol within fashion companies.”
The fashion house initially traded the word “flag” for “cultural heritage” before the product was removed from the official Louis Vuitton website entirely. Going to the web address now generates an error message of “404 page not found.”
Social media was not kind to the luxury designer, accusing it of appropriation and trying to commercialize the ethnic aspects of Jamaican culture, while still messing up the specifics.
Some critics indicated the Rastafarian flag looked to be an influence for the sweater, as opposed to the official flag of Jamaica. The Rastafari religion has its roots in Jamaica, and the faith is signified by an older style of the Ethiopian flag, which contains the identical three stripes, but has an image of the Lion of Judah at its center.
Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella also joined the fray of social media backlash with a pointed Instagram post reading, “Bob says that’s the Ethiopian flag @Louisvuitton,” with a photo of a an unhappy Marley underneath an embarrassed face emoji.
Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s creative director, has parents from Ghana, whose flag colors are green, golden yellow and red. Abloh has also collaborated on a sneaker project with Jamaican skateboarder Lucien Clarke.
Louis Vuitton issued a statement to the Guardian that said, “We deeply regret the error in the description on our e-commerce site and we have corrected the information. The sweater is from the spring-summer 2021 men’s collection, throughout which green, yellow and red, the colors of the Ethiopian flag and a hallmark of African independence, were used, including to pay tribute to the Ghanaian heritage of our menswear designer Virgil Abloh.”
Other fashion brands have faced backlash for having racially insensitive products or culturally offensive items, like H&M’s 2018 ad that featured a Black boy wearing a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle.” H&M reportedly only stopped selling the item in the United States. Gucci produced a turtleneck that resembled blackface, and Burberry had to apologize for promoting a hoodie with a noose for drawstrings.