Two weeks ago, Gucci pulled a balaclava sweater from stores following accusations of blackface for its large, red mouth opening and long, black neckline. In a new letter sent to Gucci staffers by CEO Marco Bizzarri and acquired by TMZ, the fashion mogul claimed ignorance, writing that he was unaware of “the history and significance of blackface.” Bizzarri also promised to ensure “any product that is, or may be perceived as, culturally insensitive does not get to the production stage” by hiring five new designers from across the globe.
Gucci also released an internal “updated security protocol” on how to deal with “disruptive behavior,” suggesting that “individuals may be coming into our stores to express their concerns or looking for a reaction, and it is important to be extremely cautious, empathetic and focused on de-escalation in the current heightened situation.” It ends with instructing employees to “Always focus on de-escalation. Never engage in a verbal or physical altercation with a client.” The company has also ordered its retail workers to accept any and all returns of the blackface sweater.
This could all very well be standard-operating procedure, but that doesn’t make Gucci seem any less suspect. I’d love for Bizzarri (or any disgruntled employee) to leak the details of the proposed five new hires and the company’s plans for increasing diversity within Gucci, particularly their Rome headquarters. The easiest and most effective way to ensure that your luxury fashion house isn’t riddled with public discontent over blatantly racist imagery is to hire people who would never let it get through to production, and maybe this is an honest attempt to making sure that happens.