Usually, making headlines at Fashion Week is a good thing. Not always. Right at the height of Paris Fashion Week, Miroslava Duma (fashion blogger and entrepreneur) and Ulyana Sergeenko (couture fashion designer) blundered their way to the forefront of the fashion industry when they posted and engaged in tone deaf and racist discourse. Amazingly, despite an avalanche of criticism and condemnation, brands associated with Duma kept quiet.
Duma and the Synthetic Diamonds
Enter Diamond Foundry – a company that makes lab-grown (synthetic) diamonds and is heavily tied to Duma, who is on their advisory board. The company made no effort to distance themselves from Duma when the wave of bad media hit. Why? Because association to a racist will hurt their brand – but keeping quiet may just let them slip past the flurry of negative press. This is an atrocity.
In a day and age where Millennials are heavily engaged with brands, believe in brand loyalty and value a personal connection to companies over pricing and service, their purchasing power has earned them a right to know exactly who represents their brand and what they stand for. Let’s recap what happened with Duma and Sergeenko to understand why it’s significant…
It starts with Duma posting a picture to Instagram of a card sent to her by Sergeenko, who is looking forward to a meeting at Fashion Week in Paris – penning a hand-written note which reads, “To my n*ggas in Paris.” Duma’s post received immediate backlash from her followers and the media – rightfully so.
Next came their apologies which were weak and insincere. Sergeenko, who penned the original note, seemed to think her friend was just a bit naïve for posting it and instead of offering a full apology, said that maybe the note was a bad idea in the first place. You think? Sergeenko went on to “explain” that “and yes, we call each other the N-word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it.”
Duma issued an apology, noting that she and the “organizations” she is associated with are “committed to our core values of inclusion and diversity.” The public and the fashion industry didn’t buy it, and condemnation rightfully followed.
With the increased scrutiny on Sergeenko and Duma, videos emerged the next day of Duma bashing transgender models and cross-dressing bloggers. Pictures also emerged from 2014 of Duma photographing Dasha Zhukova, a Russian socialite, sitting on a chair that looks like a half-naked black woman. Duma attempted to issue a warped statement (the 2nd one in 24 hours) claiming she was a better person and has learned her lesson.
Duma – Intolerance and Racism
What we can clearly see, particularly with Duma, is a history of intolerance and racism. The most shocking revelation is that only one brand associated with Duma, Tots (a mom and children venture she helped found), has separated itself from her entirely. Considering the number of other companies she has worked with in the last several years – particularly developing clothing and accessories from sustainable materials – it is shocking that more of these brands have not backed away from her.
What we are seeing here is brand loyalty. Not consumer loyalty to brands, but brand loyalty to a spokesperson – one who has revealed herself as someone comfortable to use racially-charged epithets. Do you think a progressive Millennial will want to buy from a brand associated with racism?
As associations go, it’s now clear that Diamond Foundry is directly tied with a racially provocative spokesperson. What is unclear is why they’ve chosen not to distance themselves from Duma. Where is the uproar from their CEO and Board? Perhaps they just don’t want their consumers to know that one of their brand spokespersons has made racist remarks? This doesn’t sound like something Millennials would like – does it?
Duma Issues Apology
In an effort to save face at the end of her ordeal, Duma issued a final apology, saying, “I do not expect instant forgiveness, nor forgiveness at all, for those I’ve offended. I know that my actions must speak louder than my words or gestures on social media — and I pledge to do the necessary work to gain back people’s trust and respect.”
Whether or not Duma’s final apology was sincere remains to be seen. What we do know is that publicly negative actions should have consequences. The public backlash against Sergeenko and Duma was valid. They made inflammatory comments and failed to sincerely apologize – causing individuals in their industry to condemn their actions. What remains to be seen is whether companies associated with them will follow suit.
These are thoughts and opinions of the author and do not reflect the views of Everything-PR.com