Gucci isn’t wasting any time making a mends after being accused of selling a sweater that closely resembles blackface.
The luxury label issued a swift apology and immediately pulled the design off its shelves. In the wake of the firestorm, Gucci collaborator and designer Dapper Dan released a statement via Instagram calling the situation “outrageously wrong” and an “insult.” The renowned designer also confirmed that Gucci’s President and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri would fly to New York City for a meeting in Harlem to discuss solutions with community and industry thought leaders.
That meeting of the minds, which also included several of Gucci’s highest ranking executives, took place Thursday — and 24 hours later Gucci has announced the first of several rounds of initiatives it will implement to rectify its recent transgression, and make good on its promise of creating institutionalized change within the company.
• Hire global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion
• Create a multicultural design scholarship program
• Launch a diversity and inclusivity awareness program
• Implement a global exchange program.
“We accept 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,”Marco Bizzarri, Gucci President and CEO said in a press release. “In the last days we have conducted a thorough review of the circumstances that led to this and have 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.”
Bizzarri continued, “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 we are announcing today represent the first phase of what will become a new systematic long-term plan of action to guaranteethat diversity and inclusion are organic in everything we do.”
This is the type of thoughtful and urgent action that is needed to ensure the public that Gucci means business. It’s also an important example to the rest of the industry that public apologies aren’t enough. Prada, which is also in damage control mode after being accused of shilling racially insensitive goods, recently announced that it has formed a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory board.
But let’s be clear, diversity within all divisions of a company — especially on the corporate level — is essential. We’re hopeful that these steps made by Gucci will be mimicked by other brands that have struggled with diversity and in turn prevent future mishaps.
Below is a detailed outline of the four initiatives provided by Gucci…
- GLOBAL AND REGIONAL DIRECTORS FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Gucci is working to not only hire talented and diverse candidates but also create 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 forDiversity and Inclusion, based at Gucci America in New York. As member of the Company’s
Executive Management Committee reporting to the Chief People Officer, the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion will be responsible for developing and executing Gucci’s diversity andinclusion strategy to ensure the vision is effectively deployed globally. This role will also focus on recruitment practices, ongoing development of Gucci 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.
- MULTI-CULTURAL DESIGN SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Gucci is launching a Multi-Cultural Design Scholarship Program cultivating new talent. In partnership with fashion schools around the world, this 12-month fast track 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 of focus will be in the following cities: New York (Harlem), Nairobi, New Dehli, Beijing, Hangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Beirut, London and Dubai.
Meanwhile, Gucci will immediately hire five new designers from around the world to fill positions within the Rome design office in order to increase the diversity of perspective withimmediate effect. Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele will be personally involved in the selection process.
All of the talent recruited will be paired with an individual mentor to ensure a seamless integration within the department.
- DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY AWARENESS PROGRAMGucci is creating a new global learning program with the objective to increase awareness of unconscious cultural bias and create a more inclusive workplace. This program will be launched by the beginning of May for all 18,000 global employees and complete by the end of June, with an initial focus on Italy and the United States and will be taught in one full day session with required follow-up by all participants on an annual basis.The company will also be introducing a specific diversity and inclusivity module within its new employee induction program developed in conjunction with regional experts
- GLOBAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM Gucci will launch an internal Global Exchange Program to promote a multicultural and diverse workplace by providing internal mobility for talents to come from the regions to work at the headquarter offices in Italy. Selected participants in the program will have the opportunity to grow their skills and experience, always paired with a mentor to ensure seamless integration.
As a result, corporate office employees will improve their cultural sensitivity and willconsequently be able to integrate these insights into the company’s ways of working. Thisexchange program will be launched with immediate effect.
In developing the thinking behind these immediate initiatives, Marco Bizzarri met with Dapper Dan and other community leaders, as well as other experts and industry leaders, in Harlem to receive their perspective and insights. Gucci will continue to engage with this group as it develops its long-term plan to ensure that diversity and cultural awareness become a sustainableand integral part of Gucci’s culture and operations