Fashionista first broke the news that Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri issued an internal memo apologizing for the recent blackface balaclava sweater controversy earlier today. Now, the site reports that Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele has followed suit, issuing a personal letter to his colleagues at the Italian fashion house.
The $890 USD balaclava turtleneck sweater was blasted on social media for its resemblance to blackface makeup, with thick red lips starkly contrasting with the all-black knit. Gucci affiliate Dapper Dan issued a swift response, taking the house to task for getting “it completely wrong. There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult. … I will hold everyone accountable.”
Alessandro Michele’s 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.
Read Michele’s entire letter to the Gucci team below.
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.”