“I want to go back to school,” said Marco Bizzarri, feeling the emotion of the 50 finalists of Gucci’s Design Fellowship Program in the frescoed room of Rome’s beautiful 14th-century Palazzo Taverna on Thursday evening.
To be sure, it was an night to be remembered by the aspiring young designers that are part of the program, but Gucci’s president and CEO, flanked by the brand’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, and several of their respective teams in the audience, were equally moved by the response and feelings of the students.
“Being exposed to different cultures is the best way to flourish,” said Bizzarri, praising Michele’s willingness to open up his design studio. “You need to be very brave and confident to do collaborations and see with different eyes. In most cases, people want to control, but for longevity, you need to leverage creativity and be open-minded.”
Michele took to the stage briefly to say that he remembered how he was a student, too, “many years ago and, sitting in the audience, I felt like I was in the past. I am very proud this is my family, and I am sure this will be the beginning of a great trip.”
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The Design Fellowship Program is part of Gucci’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives to promote cultural exchange between designers coming from different backgrounds and launched in March. It is meant to offer opportunities to underrepresented groups of talents in partnership with 10 fashion schools in 10 countries (Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, China, Japan, Korea, Dubai, U.S. and Mexico).
Five finalists for each school across different product categories were selected for a total of 50 finalists. They were invited to Italy for a week to discover Gucci in Rome and Florence, and this was an opportunity for Gucci’s design team to meet directly with them. Gucci then selected 11 graduates — one more than was originally planned — and revealed with the event on Thursday that they will join the brand’s team in Rome starting from March 2020 for their fellowship.