Alessandro Michele has admitted he suffered “the greatest grief” when Gucci was accused of being racist upon the release of their black knitted balaclava jumper.
The jumper covered the lower half of the face and featured a cutout around the mouth surrounded by a red lips design – a design which many pointed out resembles “blackface”. Gucci apologised in a statement and withdrew the item from sale, while the label’s CEO Marco Bizzarri sent an email round to his colleagues in which he admitted the company made a “big mistake” selling the item.
Creative Director Michele is the latest to address the scandal, following in Bizzarri’s footsteps by sending an internal memo in which he spoke about his feelings surrounding the controversy.
“The fact that, contrarily to my intentions, that turtle-neck jumper evoked a racist imagery causes me the greatest grief,” he wrote in the letter, obtained by website Fashionista. “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.”
Michele continued to tell his colleagues that his intention with the jumper was entirely different, and the piece “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,” he explained.
However, Michele acknowledges that his intentions didn’t come across, and he instead contributed to causing offence by debuting the jumper.
“I really shelter the suffer of all I have offended (sic),” he concluded. “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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