Dolce & Gabbana Makes Yet Another Cultural Misstep, Names Shoe 'Slave Sandal'

The sandal is currently available for pre-order for $2,395.
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Maria Bobila
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The sandal is currently available for pre-order for $2,395.
Ugh. Photo: Screengrab

Ugh. Photo: Screengrab

Dolce & Gabbana has made some strong PR moves lately: There was its latest full-on fairy tale fashion show, a collection of handbags and tops featuring same-sex parents and their children and its debut line of hijabs and abayas. But it seems like the Italian fashion house tends to take one step forward and two steps back when it comes to political correctness. Its latest screw-up? The "Slave Sandal." 

The so-named shoe style comes from the brand's spring 2016 collection, "a declaration of love to Italy," as its website states. It's currently available for pre-order there at $2,395 and has also popped up on other retailers' sites, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, where the word "slave" is not included. In fact, if you scroll down to the sandal's description on the Dolce & Gabbana site, the flat sandal is interestingly called "Bianca," so we're hoping this eyebrow-raising title is just a techno glitch. According to Footwear News, "slave" was at one time a common descriptor for a lace-up shoe silhouette; "gladiator" has been used instead for quite some time, since the idea of using the term "slave" to sell luxury footwear rightfully came into question.

But what we're really trying to figure out is: how does stuff like this keep happening to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, specifically? Haven't they learned from the backlash over their offensive earrings from 2012? (The designers defended the accessory by explaining its historical and cultural context behind "blackamoor" imagery.) Or how about the anti-IVF comments that they apologized for? Aside from the sandals, their spring 2016 runway show already stirred controversy for the distinctly Chinese-inspired outfits worn exclusively by Asian models. (Luckily, the season's campaign featured a somewhat better approach.)

In 2012, Adidas released — and then pulled — a pair of Jeremy Scott-designed "handcuff" sneakers that featured shackles for the wearer's ankles due to its offensive resemblance to a symbol of African slavery. (Scott's inspiration was My Pet Monster, a plush doll that inspired its own animated series.) Dolce & Gabbana will likely keep their sandals up for sale, but here's to hoping they fix this (habitual) problem pronto.

We reached out to Dolce & Gabbana for comment and have not received a response at press time.

Update 3/4: The sandal's description has been changed on Dolce & Gabbana's website. The title now reads, "Decorative flat sandal in napa leather with pompoms." The brand has yet to respond to our requests for comment.

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