World-famous Italian fashion house Gucci is launching a $1.5 million university scholarship program in the US aimed at students who are “traditionally underrepresented” in the fashion industry. After a controversy earlier this year over a sweater that evoked racist imagery, Gucci is working to recover from this reputation by boosting diversity through this “Gucci Changemakers” initiative.
The program is largely in response to Gucci’s infamous controversy in February, when they put an $890 sweater up for sale that many said was reminiscent of blackface. Gucci immediately took the garment off their website and said the incident would be “a powerful learning moment,” AP News reported.
The goal of the Gucci Changemakers program, according to the “Gucci Equilibrium” website, is to “support industry change and foster unity through community action.” The program will provide scholarships to “diverse undergraduate students” attending four-year universities who interested in the fashion industry.
The Gucci Changemakers program will provide up to $20,000 per student for the 2020-21 academic year. Two scholarships will be awarded to design students specifically, in association with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Another 20 to 50 scholarships will be awarded to students working toward other fashion careers.
Special consideration for a Gucci diversity scholarship will be given to students attending historically black colleges or universities, according to the Gucci announcement. The program will also prioritize students in 12 North American cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C.
Gucci will also be awarding $1 million in grants to community-based organizations focusing on education, social justice, and art and culture. The grants will range from $10,000 to $50,000 per organization per year, and the program is set to run for five years.
“With the scholarship program, we aim to create opportunities and visibility for traditionally underrepresented creatives,” Changemakers Council co-chair Yaseen Eldik told AP News. “Our goal is to break down barriers, particularly financial, and make fashion for diverse and inclusive.”
Applications for both the scholarship and grant programs opened on Monday. The grant deadline is November 7, and the scholarship applications are due by December 31.