Gucci Reveals Diversity Initiatives After Blackface Sweater Incident

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Gucci Changemakers offers scholarships and other programs for the African-American community.

Gucci has created a new program to support diversity and inclusion in fashion, the Italian house announced Monday.

The Gucci Changemakers program, which the brand says was launched internally in 2018, will offer a $5 million fund to aid communities of color, as well as $1.5 million in scholarships in North America. Selected college students will receive $20,000 over the course of four years. Gucci Changemakers includes an external council to hold itself accountable and help select nonprofit partners in the U.S. (the North America council includes Will.i.am).

The change comes after backlash in February to Gucci’s “blackface sweater” with a pull-up balaclava and red lips. "This must be used to create something new; this will help us do things in a different way," creative director Alessandro Michele previously said of the incident.

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and CEO, said the initiative will focus on programs to help kids and the African-American community. “I believe in dialogue, building bridges and taking quick action,” he said Monday in a statement. “This is why we started working immediately on the long-term infrastructure at Gucci to address our shortcomings.”

Added Bizzarri, “I believe in the promise of the next generation, and through our scholarship fund we will also create more opportunities for talented young people of diverse backgrounds to gain access to careers in the fashion industry."

All 18,000 Gucci employees receive four paid days off to volunteer locally in four main areas: equality; support for refugees and the homeless; protection of the environment; and education.

Other fashion designers have also been embroiled in blackface scandals in the past few months, with Prada removing a monkey-like blackface keychain in December and Burberry facing backlash for a noose hoodie. 

"Designers are overediting in fear of offending," designer Eric Wright told The Hollywood Reporter, adding there’s a "heaviness in the fashion air” due to the offensive imagery. 

Prada took steps to rectify the blackface accusations in February by tapping filmmaker Ava DuVernay to co-chair its new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. The house will partner with universities for internship programs and sponsor scholarships for students of color.

DuVernay explained to THR why she decided to help even after the incident. "I don't know what the hell happened with that product, but when they called me and said, 'We don't know what we've done, will you help us?' I said yes," she said.