St Vincent and Bethann Hardison at the Gucci RTW Fall 2019 show

MILANGucci is launching a new global program called Changemakers in its ongoing effort to support a shift in the industry and to foster unity through community action. This follows the company’s announcement last month of the first of four long-term initiatives to achieve cultural diversity and awareness throughout its organization and activities globally, following accusations in February that a Gucci balaclava-style sweater evoked blackface. 

Gucci Changemakers includes a fund for a total of $5 million over five years and a $1.5 million four-year scholarship program in North America. In addition, Gucci is fostering a global employee-volunteering framework that will fuel the company’s commitment to creating lasting social impact in communities and within the fashion industry.

The Changemakers Fund will invest in community-based programs in cities across North America. In particular, it will focus on building strong connections and opportunities within the African-American community, among others. To this end, the Italian fashion group will rely on advice from and support of a Changemakers Council, which is being formed, made up of community leaders and social change experts. It is being conceived to ensure transparency, accountability and long-term impact. At the moment it includes the following:

• fashion activist Bethann Hardison, who attended Gucci’s fall show in February in Milan;

• Brittany Packnett, activist, educator and writer;

• Cleo Wade, poet and activist;

• Dapper Dan, Harlem couturier;

• DeRay McKesson, activist;

• Eric Avila, professor of history and Chicano studies at UCLA;

.  Kimberly Blackwell, business leader, CEO, PMM;

• Ivy McGregor, chief executive officer, The IVY Inc., innovative vision strategic consulting;

• Michaela Angela Davis, activist and writer;

• Robert Carter, chair of Gucci Internal D&I Committee and Gucci project manager Dapper Dan Atelier;

• Susan Chokachi, Gucci, president and ceo, North America;

• Yaseen Eldik, lawyer and writer;

• Yasmeen Hassan, executive director of Equality Now, an international human rights organization focused on the rights of women and girls around the world;

• Yvette Noel-Schure, cofounder and executive vice president, Schure Media Group;

• Will.i.am, entertainer, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

A Gucci global director for diversity and inclusion is to be appointed.

The council will select nonprofit partner organizations in cities across North America, including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C.

Gucci will also establish a $5 million Changemakers Fund in the Asia-Pacific region in June.

“I believe in dialogue, building bridges and taking quick action,” said Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and chief executive officer. “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.”

The Gucci Changemakers Scholarship Program will have a focus on empowering more diverse talent in North America to access the industry through scholarships that will be available to college students across various disciplines with the ambition to work in fashion. This builds on the company’s recently announced Global Multi-Cultural Design Scholarship Program. “I believe in the promise of the next generation, and through our scholarship fund we will also create more opportunities for talented young people of diverse backgrounds to gain access to careers in the fashion industry,” Bizzarri said.

The Changemakers Council will also help select eligible students from schools across North America to participate in the Gucci Changemakers Scholarship Fund. Over the course of four years, Gucci and the Changemakers Council will select students to receive a $20,000 grant toward completing their college education. As part of this project, a volunteering program was initially revealed to employees last year, which allowed 18,000 Gucci employees worldwide to dedicate up to four paid days off for volunteering activities in their local communities. This represents up to 8,000 days of volunteer support in North America, the first region in the global rollout, where volunteering opportunities cover four main pillars: equality; support for refugees and the homeless; protection of the environment, and education.

“As a partner, I am proud to work with Gucci and other community leaders to help guide programs that will create meaningful impact for the black community and fashion as a whole,” said Dapper Dan. “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 better more inclusive one.”

As reported, Gucci in February said it would hire a global director for diversity and inclusion in each region; a global multicultural design scholarship program in partnership with colleges in 10 cities around the world and hiring five new designers from around the world to fill positions in the Rome design office; the diversity and inclusivity awareness program for all of the company’s 18,000 employees, and the internal global exchange program, which has already placed three regional employees in the corporate offices.

Gucci’s overall commitment to social impact is aligned with Kering’s 2025 Sustainability Strategy.

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