Alessandro Michele apologizes after controversy over Gucci's "Blackface sweater"
Lately, the world of fashion is shaken by a violent controversy. A few months after H & M's infamous "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" sweater, it's now Gucci's turn to shock the international community. The Italian brand has indeed marketed a turtleneck sweater which unfortunately evokes the makeup of a Blackface, with bright red lips, set in contrasts with the full black of the rest of the piece.
But even though Gucci's turtleneck was immediately removed from the physical and online stores, the damage was already done. Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri also sent a memo to his employees to apologize for this creation deemed offensive by many. According to Fashionista, Alessandro Michele has also issued a long letter of apology internally. Indeed, he explains the artistic process that led him to create this piece, which had nothing to do with a Blackface.
His letter regarding the firestorm touches upon his original inspiration — “It was a tribute to Leigh Bowery, to his camouflage art.” — and his pledge to “increase inclusivity, diversity, participation and cultural awareness at any level and in any workplace” across the world. Michele admits that he is “heartfully sorry for this hurt, … The fact … that turtle-neck jumper evoked a racist imagery causes me the greatest grief.” He takes full accountability for the controversy.
The Full Letter Says:
I feel the need to write you all these few words to give a name to the pain of these days: my own and that of the people who saw in one of my creative projects an intolerable insult.
It’s important for me to let you know that the jumper actually had very specific references, completely different from what was ascribed instead. It was a tribute to Leigh Bowery, to his camouflage art, to his ability to challenge the bourgeois conventions and conformism, to his eccentricity as a performer, to his extraordinary vocation to masquerade meant as a hymn to freedom.
The fact that, contrarily to my intentions, that turtle-neck jumper evoked a racist imagery causes me the greatest grief. But I am aware that sometimes our actions can end up with causing unintentional effects. It is therefore necessary taking full accountability for these effects.
For this reason our company immediately apologized and withdraw the garment that produced such controversies. As you may have read from Marco in his letter, we are putting in place a series of immediate actions across the world that will increase inclusivity, diversity, participation and cultural awareness at any level and in any workplace. We are truly committed in facing what happened as a crucial learning moment for everybody.
I’ve always fought to grant myself and any other the possibility to be different. I’ve hardly been through this fight all over my personal life and I later brought it into my work. Here I always tried to give citizenship’s right to the traditionally marginalized, to those who felt unrepresented, to those that history silenced or made believe they were worthless.
My aim, in which personal and political are intimately interwoven, has always been to turn the pain into a chant. Therefore I’ve always worked to let alternative imageries loaded with joyful inclusion emerge. Imageries able to celebrate diversity in every form. Imageries able to favour empowerment and self-determination processes. This is who I am and these are the things I believe in.
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 towards the celebration of diversity that has always shaped my work. This is the only celebration I’m willing to stand for.”