Alessandro Michele Breaks His Silence About Gucci's Blackface Scandal

"The fact that, contrarily to my intentions, that turtle-neck jumper evoked a racist imagery causes me the greatest grief."

Alessandro Michele at the Gucci Cruise 2018 show. Photo: Pietro D'Aprano/Getty Images

Last week, Gucci pulled an $890 black, high balaclava turtleneck — which featured cartoonish thick, red lips around the mouth cut-out — from its shelves after widespread outrage that it resembled blackface. Following the brand's official apology statement, the Italian house's creative collaborator Dapper Dan then spoke out about the ill-advised sweater, saying that he vowed to hold company leaders accountable for the offensive mistake. "I am a Black man before I am brand," Dap said of his affiliation with the luxury label. "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." 

The day after Dap blasted the statement on social media, Fashionista acquired a memo circulated internally within the company from Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri that indicates that he is deeply sorry for the mistake and is planning on implementing a global cultural awareness program and a scholarship program to "facilitate an increase of different communities within the creative office." 

On Tuesday, Gucci's Creative Director Alessandro Michele followed suit, breaking his silence in a personal letter to the company, later obtained by Fashionista."The fact that, contrarily to my intentions, that turtle-neck jumper evoked a racist imagery causes me the greatest grief," Michele wrote after stating that Leigh Bowery and his camouflage art were his inspirations behind the design of the sweater. "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." 

You can read Michele's letter in full below.

"Dear Colleagues,

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."

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