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The sweater sparked outrage online earlier this month with many people criticizing the jumper for resembling blackface. As a result, the item was swiftly removed from Gucci’s stores and website, per the UK Independent.
“I feel the need to write you all these few words to give a name to the pain of these days,” Michele wrote in a letter to Gucci employees.
Michele said the design was actually inspired by late club kid Leigh Bowery. He also noted that the controversy has caused him “the greatest grief” but that he is taking “full accountability” for the “unintentional effects.”
The designer also referenced an earlier statement from Gucci’s CEO, Marco Bizzarri; that the brand is launching scholarship programs and internal training to “increase inclusivity, diversity, participation and cultural awareness.”
“We are truly committed in facing what happened as a crucial learning moment for everybody,” he wrote.
But many critics think the effort comes a little too late.
“@gucci in 2019? Really? Ya’ll just learning diversity training?” one person wrote.
Another added: “Cultural sensitivity training… as if an entire cultural existence/experience can be explained and understood in a one week seminar with croissants, coffee, and smoke breaks. Hire competent black professionals.”
A third commented: “Good night to everyone except Alessandro Michele and that whack a** apology from Gucci.”
Michele concluded his letter with an apology: “I really shelter the suffer of all I have offended. 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.”