Gucci has announced the launch of Changemakers, a program that aims to support industry change and foster more diversity and inclusivity. The initiative includes a multi-million dollar fund, a scholarship program and a global employee-volunteering framework, and follows the company’s announcement of an internal action plan launched in 2018.
The multi-year fund will allocate $5 million towards investments in community-based programs in cities across North America, with the aim to build better opportunities for the African-American community and communities of color at-large. A parallel fund of the same monetary value will be established in the Asia Pacific region.
The scholarship program, which focuses on empowering young people through education, will offer scholarships for college students across various disciplines in fashion throughout the region. Over the course of four years, students will receive a $20,000 grant towards their education.
Both student grants and non-profit organizations will be partly selected by a dedicated Council composed of community leaders and experts in social change, in order to ensure that whatever the program embarks on is done so with transparency and long-term impact. The Council includes Harlem couturier and Gucci ambassador Dapper Dan, fashion activist Bethann Hardison and Eric Avila, professor of history and chicano studies at UCLA.
Lastly, announced in 2018, the volunteering campaign is focusing on the label’s 18,000 employees by allocating up to four paid days off for volunteering activities in their local communities. This represents 8,000 days of volunteer support in North America, the first region involved in the program, under four main pillars of volunteering: equality, support for refugees and the homeless, protection of the environment, and education.
The Changemakers Program can be seen as a proactive response to the brand’s recent scandal over the insensitive design of a baklava sweater resembling blackface. Following the controversy earlier this year, the brand announced a series of long-term initiative, which includes the hiring of a global director for diversity and inclusion; a multi-cultural design scholarship program in partnership with colleges in 10 global cities; and the hiring of five new designers from around the world for Gucci’s design head office.
“I believe in dialogue, building bridges and taking quick action,” said Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO. “This is why we started working immediately on the long-term infrastructure at Gucci to address our shortcomings. And now through our Changemakers program, we will invest important resources to unify and strengthen our communities across North America, with a focus on programs that will impact youth and the African-American community.”
Dapper Dan, a longtime Gucci fan but also vocal critic of the ‘blackface’ scandal, said, “It is imperative that we have a seat at the table to say how we should be represented and reimagined. Through our work together, Gucci is in a position to lead the overall industry toward becoming a more inclusive one.” He later added on Instagram, “This does not end with Gucci, it begins with Gucci.”
Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.
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