Gucci is trying to make amends for the blackface scandal. Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO, flew to New York City and met with legendary designer Dapper Dan, along with other community activists, yesterday in Harlem
Bizzarri said in statement after the meeting, “Following the recent unintentional balaclava jumper incident, Gucci announces the first four initiatives in a long-term plan of actions designed to further embed cultural diversity and awareness in the company.“
He continued, “We accept full accountability for this incident, which has exposed shortfalls in our ongoing strategic approach to embedding diversity and inclusion in both our organization and in our activities. I am particularly grateful to Dapper Dan for the role he has played in bringing community leaders together to offer us their counsel at this time.”
The initiatives include hire global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion, create a multicultural design scholarship program, launch a diversity and inclusivity awareness program, and implement a global exchange program.
Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele also said, “My entire life has been dedicated to fight to grant myself and other[s] the possibility to be different and to freely express themselves. I look forward to welcoming new perspectives to my team and together working even harder for Gucci to represent a voice for inclusivity.”
After an avalanche of criticism last week, Gucci ended sales of its $890 balaclava black-knit women’s sweater that could be pulled up over the lower half of the wearer’s face. It featured signature bright red lips associated with blackface as a cut-out for the mouth.
Michele sent a letter to Gucci’s 18,000 employees from his personal e-mail address. He said that his turtleneck jumper was not intended to be racist.
“I really shelter the suffer of all I have offended. And I am heartfully sorry for this hurt. I hope I can rely on the understanding of those who know me and can acknowledge the constant tension toward the celebration of diversity that has always shaped my work. This is the only celebration I’m willing to stand for,” his letter stated.
Bizzarri reiterated Michele’s regret and offered a classic excuse in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.
“This is due to the ignorance of this matter,” the CEO explained.
That, however, was hard to believe because blackface controversies also exist in Europe.
In 2017, Italian comedian Gabriele Pellegrini, who goes by the stage name Dado, wore blackface in a performance that mocked African immigrants in Italy, Forbes reported. He dressed as a Black kebab seller—mimicking a broken foreign Italian accent—in his racist commentary on the influx of African migrants.
There’s also growing opposition in the Netherlands to Black Pete, the purported blackface assistant of Santa Claus who does the work of climbing down chimneys to deliver gifts. Much of the protest against Pete comes from Black residents who are forcing the Dutch to remember that their nation colonized people of color for more than three centuries and to acknowledge that the colonizer mentality persists.
To add insult to injury, Gucci’s garment was being sold at the start of Black History Month and against the backdrop of Virginia’s Democratic governor and attorney general admitting to wearing blackface in the 1980s.
Hopefully, there new initiative will be a start to correcting their clear racism.