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Internal Memo from Gucci CEO Shows He's Taking the Blackface Scandal Very, Very Seriously

"We made a mistake. A big one."
Marco Bizzarri and Dapper Dan at the 2018 Met Gala. Photo: Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Marco Bizzarri and Dapper Dan at the 2018 Met Gala. Photo: Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic/Getty Images

On Sunday, just days after Gucci issued an official apology for its sweater that resembled blackface (and simultaneously pulled it from shelves), the Italian house's preeminent creative collaborator Dapper Dan released a statement of his own. "I am a Black man before I am a brand," he wrote in a post blasted out via both Twitter and Instagram. "Another fashion house has gotten it outrageously wrong. There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult. The CEO of Gucci has agreed to come from Italy to Harlem this week to meet with me, along with members of the community and other industry leaders. There cannot be inclusivity without accountability. I will hold everyone accountable."

Given that Gucci's fruitful partnership with Dapper Dan thus far has included a men's tailoring campaign, a capsule collection and, most notably, the reopening of his legendary Harlem atelier underwritten by the Kering-owned label, there was little doubt that CEO Marco Bizzarri would make good on his promise. On Monday evening, Fashionista obtained a memo circulated internally within the company that indicates that both Bizzarri and Creative Director Alessandro Michele are taking the recent scandal very, very seriously. "We made a mistake. A big one. Because of cultural ignorance, but ignorance is not an excuse," he wrote, before continuing on to assert that he is "working on a set of immediate, concrete actions" to implement, including a global cultural awareness program and a scholarship program to "facilitate an increase of different communities within the creative office."

Though Michele, who will present Gucci's Fall 2019 collection in Milan next week, hasn't yet made a public statement, Bizzarri notes that one is forthcoming — and that it will likely be heartfelt. As Kering's star moneymaker, Gucci has demonstrated season after season that it knows exactly what its customers want from a commercial standpoint, and if Bizzarri's letter is any indication, the same can be said from a moral perspective, too. Just as the brand went above and beyond to make things right with Dapper Dan after Michele was accused of ripping off Dap's design in his Cruise 2018 collection, we expect it to treat this latest misstep with the same level of gravity and grace. 

You can read Bizzarri's letter in full below.

"Dear Colleagues,

By now, you will all know of the issue we are currently facing due to the balaclava jumper.

This is a situation that has impacted the Gucci community, myself and Alessandro in a very personal way.

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We made a mistake. A big one. Because of cultural ignorance, but ignorance is not an excuse. And we accept responsibility for this mistake. Yet there is no way of thinking nor believing that this could have ever been intentional.

The way we have been portrayed as a company is not reflecting who we are and what we stand for. The current perception is putting at risk all the values we believe in and have been working on from the beginning of our journey. Self-expression, diversity, community building and inclusivity are in the DNA of the brand reflected in the many initiatives we have launched in the last several years, such as our membership of Parks and our signature of the "UN LGBT Business Conduct Standards," our gender equality campaign Chime for Change, our 15-year partnership with UNICEF and our support for refugees through Artolution, to name a few.

We have created a shared corporate culture that makes us unique. From the very start in 2015, all that we have stood for and all that we have achieved on a daily basis has been driven by these values and has been defining this chapter for our brand. Above all, respect for others, celebrating diversity through inclusivity and with creativity at the heart of everything we do.

This process takes time, as any behavioral change does, evolving every day and mistakes may happen along the way.

We thought we were standing in a better position, and we need to recognize that we are not.

We have to move even quicker. We are a learning organization, and I am now working on a set of immediate, concrete actions — from building a global cultural awareness program to a company-wide system that will allow diversity to bloom everywhere, to a full program of scholarships in major cities, such as New York, Nairobi, Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul which will facilitate an increase of different communities within the creative office — that I will announce in detail this week. I will also be discussing these important initiatives with leaders from different communities in order to develop a constructive and appropriate framework. I don't want to be divided, I want to invite everyone to join us.

I have exchanged at length with Alessandro while he is preparing the upcoming fashion show and he is writing us a letter expressing his feelings, which we will read shortly.

People are at the center of everything we do. This situation is not going to change our values, what defines us, what we stand for and how we act towards one another and to the communities we serve. We will take on this challenge as a mandate to develop a stronger organization. This is a commitment we all share."

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