Gucci Pledges to Launch Initiatives That Foster Cultural Diversity Following Blackface Accusations

Gucci is making good on its promise — and acting quickly.

The Italian luxury company revealed Friday the first four long-term initiatives to achieve cultural diversity and awareness throughout its organization and activities globally, following accusations last week that a Gucci balaclava-style sweater evoked blackface.

The first four initiatives are:

  • Hiring global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion
  • Setting up a multicultural design scholarship program
  • Launching a diversity and inclusivity awareness program
  • Launching a global exchange program

Gucci is pledging to hire diverse talent within key functions and leadership positions of the group, including the design office, and will invest in educating all of its 18,000 employees around the world “to achieve a much higher level of global cultural awareness.”

President and CEO Marco Bizzarri said Gucci accepted “full accountability for this incident, which has clearly exposed shortfalls in our ongoing strategic approach to embedding diversity and inclusion in both our organization and in our activities.”

In an interview with WWD this week, Bizzarri pointed to “ignorance of this matter. Certainly, it was not intentional, but this is not an excuse.”

A “thorough review of the circumstances that led to this” followed, said Bizzarri on Friday, explaining that he had “also engaged with all of our stakeholders, most especially our employees and leaders of the African-American community, in order to determine immediate actions that will bring greater diversity to key functions in our corporate and regional offices, along with greater cultural awareness throughout our worldwide organization to avoid similar situations occurring in the future.”

The executive was in New York this week, and he underscored the role Dapper Dan — a Gucci collaborator — played in helping to meet other community and industry leaders in Harlem, N.Y., to receive their perspectives and insights. This was not a one-off, underscored the company, as the plan is to continue to engage with this group to ensure diversity and cultural awareness in the long term. Dan said earlier in the week that he held Gucci accountable for “getting it outrageously wrong.”

“My entire life has been dedicated to fight to grant myself and any other the possibility to be different and to freely express themselves,” said creative director Alessandro Michele. “I look forward to welcoming new perspectives to my team and together working even harder for Gucci to represent a voice for inclusivity.”

As reported, in a letter to Gucci employees, Michele, while also taking “full accountability,” expressed “the pain of these days: my own and that of the people who saw in one of my creative projects an intolerable insult,” explaining that the sweater “was a tribute to Leigh Bowery, to his camouflage art.”

As part of the initiatives, Gucci will seek to hire global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion in terms not only of diverse candidates but also creating positions within the company “whose sole responsibility will be to ensure the company reaches these standards.”

Gucci is now initiating a search for the newly created role of global director for diversity and inclusion, based at Gucci America in New York. This will be a member of the company’s executive management committee who will report to the chief people officer. The role will also focus on recruitment practices, ongoing development of education programs and aligning the Gucci Changemakers worldwide volunteering initiative supporting local communities in which the brand operates. Directors for diversity and inclusion will also be appointed in each region of the world reporting to the global director.

Confirming an earlier announcement by Bizzarri, Gucci is launching a multicultural design scholarship program to cultivate new talent in partnership with fashion schools around the world. Over a 12-month period, the program will “aim to amplify opportunities for underrepresented groups of talents leading to full-time employment to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace on an ongoing basis.” The schools will be located in New York (Harlem); Nairobi, Kenya; New Delhi; Beijing; Hangzhou, China; Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo; Beirut; London; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, Gucci will immediately hire five new designers from around the world at its Rome design office. Michele will be personally involved in the selection process. The designers will be paired with an individual mentor to ensure a seamless integration within the department.

By the beginning of May, Gucci will launch a new global learning program “with the objective to increase awareness of unconscious cultural bias” for all 18,000 global employees, to be completed by the end of June. The focus will initially be on Italy and the U.S., and will be taught in one full-day session with required follow-up by all participants on an annual basis. Regional experts will also be called upon.

Internal mobility is also key as part of a global exchange program to be launched with immediate effect. Selected participants will be able to come and work at the Italian headquarters, paired with mentors.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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