As part of a effort to restore its bruised reputation, after being widely criticised for its use of racist and religiously insensitive designs, Gucci has hired a diversity chief. The appointment of Renée Tirado, who was previously the chief diversity and inclusion officer for Major League Baseball, is the latest in a series of steps taken by the Italian fashion house in response to a pair of incidents that prompted claims the problem came from a lack of ethnic minorities employed by the company.
In February Gucci was forced to withdraw a £689 balaclava knit, part of the autumn/winter 2018 collection, which covered half of the wearer’s face and featured a cut-out mouth with large red lips. With critics saying that the polo neck, which was released during Black History Month in the US, closely resembled blackface.
In the same month, the Milan-based brand announced it would hire global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion, as well as launching a multicultural design scholarship programme, a diversity and inclusion awareness programme and a global exchange programme.
However, in May Gucci was again under fire, this time for a £790 headpiece that resembled a turban, a piece from the same collection as the balaclava. The US-based Sikh Coalition said on Twitter that the turban is “not just a fashion accessory, but … also a sacred religious article of faith”.
In a video released on Tuesday afternoon, Tirado said that part of her work will be “bringing new conversations in”, such as: “How are we doing with the workforce diversity agenda? How can we bring more diverse people into not only Gucci, but the fashion industry more broadly? How do we provide a level playing field for those new employees to compete and be the future leaders of the industry?”
Her work will also, she said, be building on existing initiatives, such as the Changemakers programme announced in March, a “community fund and scholarship programme for North America alongside a global volunteering programme”.