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Diet Prada: Who Will Cancel the Cancelers?

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By the end of the weekend, the Instagram post was gone, with no explanation to the account’s two million followers. On Twitter, where DP has just under 9,000 followers, they posted an apology: “The irony of a call out account getting called out. All the shade is well deserved.” In a screenshot, they stated that “our intention was to open up a conversation about what it means for a huge fashion corporation like Gap to be aligning with a figure like Kanye, whose divisive politics often take center stage,” but that “our intentions of using satire to do so fell flat.” They said that they had missed the announcement of Ogunlesi’s appointment, which was not mentioned in Gap’s initial announcement, and apologized to her.

In an email interview with GQ, Schuyler and Liu wrote, “We’re still trying to think of a more meaningful way to address it on our Instagram. We all know how the typical Instagram apologies go… they’re pretty worthless to an audience that’s already made up their mind. There’s a tendency for people and brands to be too reactionary in their apologies and we could all benefit from taking the time to process and learn.”

For many industry insiders and observers, the Twitter apology was not enough—and Diet Prada’s stumbling coverage of the news about West, Clemens, and Ogunlesi was representative of a larger, longer-term issue with the callout-and-cancel approach to fashion and pop culture that the account helped pioneer in the first place. Some fashion insiders say that, in searching for the inflammatory angle instead of working towards a cohesive platform for a reformed fashion industry, the account often misses the mark. As Sabino wrote to GQ by email earlier this week, “They [have] especially talked about Kanye and Virgil Abloh in ways that at times felt like they were overdoing it a little,” adding that although West remains a controversial figure for his support of Donald Trump, “putting a budding young, black, female designer at the head of a massive collaboration is a big deal no matter who pulls it off.” Gregory wrote to GQ that Diet Prada is no longer relevant: “We’ve moved past Diet Prada because no one holds Diet Prada accountable. DP is able to have ‘Black Lives Matter’ in their bio and at the same time uphold tokenism in the industry. You can’t do both. Where is the credibility in that?” A handful of other fashion industry insiders told me that they don’t follow Diet Prada: “I pay them no mind,” one said. Their militant and uncompromising tone can seem out of step with the industry’s current mores: “Abolish the police also means diet prada,” joked (or not!) another person on Twitter.

So has the great canceler become the canceled? The answer isn’t quite so simple.

Fashion, it seems, is moving towards a more nuanced court of public opinion, where consumers and employees are pushing for systemic change at every level instead of the mere removal of figureheads. “‘Cancelling’ people doesn’t give them the opportunity to fix what they did wrong; it deprives someone of full accountability,” says fashion influencer Bryan Yambao, aka Bryanboy. And new industry efforts to challenge racism in fashion that have emerged over the past several weeks push that idea into actionable territory. Aurora James’s Fifteen Percent Pledge is an  initiative to diversify consumers’ spending habits. After the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced a new slate of diversity actions, the Kelly Initiative formed to demand more radical systemic change. Last week, Teen Vogue editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner and publicist Sandrine Charles announced the Black In Fashion Council, an organization of more than 400 fashion professionals that will create a Quality Index Score to work with emerging and established fashion brands and media organizations to diversify staff and provide mentorship and support. In an interview with the Business of Fashion, Peoples Wagner said that she wanted to move away from “cancel culture” towards “accountability culture,” adding, “We want to allow people to rise to the occasion of changing.”

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