In January, Gucci posted images on its Instagram account of audition videos of nine black models, street cast by Midland Agency, leading us to think the luxury Italian fashion brand would be releasing a new campaign, starring a solely black cast.
Today Gucci confirmed our predictions, unveiling a powerful series of vibrant, spontaneous and carefree images, entitled ‘Soul Scene’, for the Pre-Fall 2017 campaign. The images are inspired by the spirit of England’s underground Northern Soul movement of the ‘60s as well as the recent exhibition, Made You Look, at London’s Photographer’s Gallery, which focused on black masculinity and dandyism. Shot by Glen Luchford and styled by Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, the images explore the flamboyance and freedom of self-expression of young people who challenge the conventions of society through performance, art and dance. Shot in dancehalls and colourful, make-shift studios, the images capture a group of black models and dancers dancing passionately and posing for photographs in Gucci’s sumptuous, pattern-heavy Pre-Fall collection.
The main models featured are Nicole Atieno, Elibeidy, Bakay Diaby and Keiron Berton Caynes though they are joined by 25 dancers. Released just over a month after casting agent James Scully called out the systemic racism in the fashion industry, this campaign is a welcome celebration of diversity. However, some may question why Gucci's recognition of black models and evident inspiration from black culture is applauded when many were quick to criticise Kanye West when he posted a casting call for his Yeezy season 4 show last September, requesting only "multiracial" models.
Of course the conversations surrounding the lack of diversity, racism and cultural appropriation in fashion are complex and make room for double standards. But whether it's Marc Jacobs Hip-Hop Evolution-inspired AW17 presentation at NYFW, a slight increase in diversity on the catwalks during Fashion Month in February and March, or most recently, the appointment of Edward Enninful as Editor-in-chief of British Vogue, a magazine that historically catered to and was created by white, middle-class women, the industry is taking notable steps towards a more representative and positive future. And this energetic, uplifting, beautiful Gucci campaign is another nudge in the right direction.