The chief executive and chief creative officer of luxury fashion powerhouse Burberry have apologized for putting a hoodie with strings tied in the shape of a noose on their London Fashion Week runway.
The knotted strings surfaced after Sunday's show when a model hired to walk (but not wear the outfit) complained both before the show and on Instagram, saying the noose not only evoked lynchings but also suicide.
Marco Gobbetti, the brand's CEO, said in a statement Tuesday that Burberry is "deeply sorry for the distress" the top has caused and has removed it from the autumn-winter collection, along with all images featuring the look.
Riccardo Tisci, Burberry's creative director, also apologized, saying "while the design was inspired by a nautical theme, I realize that it was insensitive."
Model Liz Kennedy took to Instagram the day of the show, posting a photo of the hoodie with a long message directed at Burberry and Tisci.
"Suicide is not fashion," she wrote. "It is not glamorous nor edgy and since this show is dedicated to the youth expressing their voice, here I go. Riccardo Tisci and everyone at Burberry it is beyond me how you could let a look resembling a noose hanging from a neck out on the runway."
She added, "Let's not forget about the horrifying history of lynching either."
Her post has prompted dozens of negative social media comments directed at Burberry and Tisci.
The collection, called "Tempest," is Tisci's second for the brand. The clothes were a mix of classic, severely tailored ensembles to more trendy street-inspired looks aimed at younger consumers.
Kennedy and other critics said the company should have known better.
"A massive brand like Burberry who is typically considered commercial and classy should not have overlooked such an obvious resemblance. I left my fitting extremely triggered after seeing this look. Feeling as though I was right back where I was when I was going through an experience with suicide in my family," Kennedy wrote on Instagram.
She said she asked to speak to somebody about it and was told to write a letter.
"I had a brief conversation with someone but all that it entailed was 'It's fashion. Nobody cares about what's going on in your personal life so just keep it to yourself.'"
Gobbetti said he called Kennedy to apologize as soon as he became aware of her concerns on Monday.
"The experience Ms. Kennedy describes does not reflect who we are and our values. We will reflect on this, learn from it and put in place all necessary actions to ensure it does not happen again."
The gaffe comes after Gucci removed a sweater from the market last week after complaints that the oversized collar designed to cover the face resembled blackface makeup. In December, Prada stopped selling baubles that also prompted complaints of racist imagery.
Those two companies have announced initiatives to foster cultural diversity and awareness among their employees to avoid future missteps.