It's been a season of intense public scrutiny for Gucci, which came under fire last month for selling a sweater that many said referenced blackface imagery. Along the way, it managed to provoke boycotts and criticisms from brand ambassadors like Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, who stated on social media that "there is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult."
Over the weekend, however, Dapper Dan seemed encouraged enough by his meetings with Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri to change his tune, with Dap sharing on Twitter that he had "seen real actions toward the solutions we discussed." On Monday, the brand announced via press release Gucci Changemakers, a community fund and scholarship program, in addition to a Gucci employee volunteering program, that are meant to build on the diversity-centric design hires the brand announced in February.
"Through our Changemakers program, we will invest important resources to unify and strengthen our communities across North America, with a focus on programs that will impact youth and the African-American community," Bizzarri said in the release.
The Gucci Changemakers program is threefold. The first element is a fund of $5 million that will be invested in non-profits that benefit communities of color in North America, which will be selected with the help of an external council that will "include community leaders and social change experts to ensure transparency, accountability and long-term impact." Dapper Dan is one member of the council, with other notable names including Bethann Hardison, DeRay McKesson, Cleo Wade, Michaela Angela Davis and Will.i.am.
The second element is a scholarship program that will award $20,000 over the course of two years to eligible students pursuing fashion, with the goal to "empower more diverse talent in North America to access the industry." The final element to Changemakers is a volunteer program that will allow Gucci's 18,000 global employees to take up to four paid days off to participate in volunteer work that addresses equality, support for refugees and the homeless, protection of the environment and education.
As far as Dapper Dan's concerned, these are all steps in the right direction.
"As a partner, I am proud to work with Gucci and other community leaders to help guide programs that will create meaningful impact for the Black community and fashion as a whole," Dap said in the release. "It is imperative that we have a seat at the table to say how we should be represented and reimagined. Through our work together, Gucci is in a position to lead the overall industry toward becoming a better, more inclusive one."