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NEW YORK (AP) — Gucci’s creative director broke his silence Tuesday over an $890 sweater that resembled blackface, saying racism was never his intention.

Alessandro Michele, a design force at the Italian fashion house, lamented in a letter to employees both his own pain and “that of the people who saw in one of my creative projects an intolerable insult.”

The black sweater with a pull-up neck featured a cutout surrounded by cartoonish red lips. Michele wrote that it was not inspired by blackface but by the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer who often used flamboyant face makeup and costumes.

Regardless, Michelle said, he takes “full accountability” for the sweater, which was pulled last week amid widespread criticism.

Gucci has apologized, saying in a previous statement posted on Twitter that it was committed to diversity and considered it a “fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make.”

The balaclava-style sweater that covered the nose above the cutout was ridiculed on social media as insensitive and racist. It emerged as attention in the U.S. was focused on old photos showing politicians with their faces blackened.

Other fashion brands have made similar missteps.

In December, Prada said it was no longer selling a line of accessories that featured a character with brown skin and exaggerated red lips after complaints they resembled blackface.

Michele’s internal letter was reported by the site Fashionista.com and Women’s Wear Daily.

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO, told WWD, “The lack of knowledge of diversity and the consequent understanding are not at the level we expected, despite all the efforts we did inside the company in the last four years.”

The company is now “evaluating all the processes” to ensure “the right level of awareness and visibility,” he said.

PHOTO: AP

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8 thoughts on “Gucci Creative Director Responds To ‘Blackface’ Design

  1. For the life of me I’ve never understood why (some) people think wearing something with name recognition somehow makes them important. No it makes them look like they are stupid enough to waste money on something frivolous. If money is no object that’s (sort of) one thing; but lots of people that don’t have jack spend money on name brands. Of course Gucci is going to apologize (rather genuine or not) because they realize where a lot of their bread and butter comes from

  2. Gucci has a marketing department and they spend hours and hours on deciding what will sell and what won’t sell. Do they have any people of color on their creative teams? After they get blasted for their insensitive ideas, they all claim to be committed to diversity. Yeah Okay

  3. Passing Through!! on said:

    Well when Gucci can get a black face like Floyd Mayweather to drop $500,000 to purchase diamond engraved shackles why not.

    • I wonder if Mayweather has been hit in the head too many times. I realize it’s his money; but over the years he’s reportedly done some stupid things when it comes to $$

  4. Alberta on said:

    I PERSONALLY DON’T CARE. IF THEY WANT TO LOOK STUPID IN BLACK MAKEUP GO RIGHT AHEAD DO IT THEY LOVE THE IDEA OF BEING BLACK & BROWN IT’S WHAT THEY CRAVE EVERY SUMMER TANNING IN ORDER TO LOOK……BETTER. = D we need to stop getting mad just realize how jealous & envious they are it’s a Cry for HELP not hate. Every time they put Black face on they say..I wish I wish I were Black.

  5. AGIN WHITE FOLKS NEED A LESSON IN BLACK HISTORY BE IT THEY BE AMERICAN OR EUROPEAN WHITE IS WHITE AND IGNORANCE IS IGNORANCE!!!! WAKE UP WHITE AMERICA AND LEARN SOME BLACK HISTORY!!!!!! NO EXCUSE!!!!! AND APOLOGYS JUST WON”T DO!!!!!! READ DEVIL READ AND YOU MAY LEARN SOMETHING!!!!!!! STOP THINKIN YOU KNOW IT ALL CAUSE YOU DON”T!!! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

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