Katy Perry is speaking out after her shoe label pulled two potentially problematic pairs Monday from its online site in the latest example of fashion stumbling over styles that resemble racist imagery.
The Katy Perry Collections label no longer features either the Rue Face slip-on loafer or the Ora Face block-heel sandal on its website. Both shoes, which sell for $129, come in black, gold or beige.
The black versions are the more startling: They feature metal appliques imitating eyes and nose plus exaggerated red lips on the vamp, the upper part of the shoes.
Perry appeared remorseful in a statement issued to USA TODAY. The statement, which also came from Global Brands Group, said the shoes were envisioned as “a nod to modern art and surrealism.”
“I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain,” the statement said.
The shoes were still available at Forever 21 as of Tuesday morning. The label also is sold at retailers such as Macy’s, Zappos and Amazon but the shoes in question are not currently available on their websites.
The shoes are not going over well with some on Twitter, after a series of blackface controversies has roiled several fashion companies, plus imperiled the political careers of the governor and the attorney general of Virginia.
“Ok, can we just make this a rule that ANY product, service or person that is NOT Black will NOT create, promote or apply any combination of BLACK + FACE Can we just make this a thing,” tweeted user @KimCrayton1.
“Regarding Katy Perry’s shoes; if you have to second guess whether a design is blackface/racist…it probably is. ‘Reaching’ or not, information is too readily accessible for this to occur. #DoBetter,” tweeted a user named Tia.
The Perry shoes resemble a Gucci wool sweater that was pulled last week after it sparked outrage on social media for appearing to mimic blackface, the 19th-century racist practice in which white people darken their skin to create caricatures of black people.
The $890 sweater, from Gucci’s Fall Winter 2018 runway show, featured a turtleneck meant to be pulled up over the nose, with a red-lined cutout for the wearer’s mouth. Gucci apologized and removed the sweater from its physical and online stores.
Prada also apologized and removed a monkey bag charm resembling blackface in December.
Director Spike Lee said last week he would boycott wearing Gucci and Prada until the brands hire some black designers following the fashion fails from the two major Italian fashion houses.
And fashion collaborator Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day, the Harlem-based designer who collaborated with Gucci on a menswear line in 2017, said on Instagram Sunday “there is no excuse or apology that can erase this kind of insult,” and claimed the CEO of Gucci has agreed to meet with him and members of the community in Harlem.
In an interview with Footwear News in October, Perry said she was devoting more time to other projects besides music, including her shoe line, which she described as “full of personality” and “affordable.”
“I’ve tried to put many a different figure or ornament on the heels, just to tell a story and to hopefully start conversations via your feet,” she said, comparing designing footwear to singing. “Music in a way is the same thing. Hopefully, people talk about the songs.”
Sarah Ader, sales director for Katy Perry Collections, said the line features “details and flair” characteristic of Perry.