Gucci executives have broken their silence on last week's controversy surrounding a sweater that evoked blackface imagery. The brand pulled its black, high-necked balaclava sweater, which retailed for 890 dollars, from its stores on Thursday with an apology sent out via social media after comparisons were made between the black sweater with exaggerated red lips and racist blackface imagery.

Now, both the brand's CEO Marco Bizzarri and creative director Alessandro Michele have spoken out on what the company recognizes as a "mistake."

Bizzarri and Michele each sent individual emails internally to the Gucci company. The emails were then shared with the press, each published in full in separate articles on digital consumer publication Fashionista.

In his letter, Bizzarri tells his company, "We made a mistake. A big one." He admits to ignorance, though recognizes that ignorance isn't an excuse for offending its consumers with the product, and therefore accepts responsibility for the mistake.

"The way we have been portrayed as a company is not reflecting who we are and what we stand for," Bizzarri wrote.

He added a desire for Gucci's brand DNA to reflect values of "self-expression, diversity, community building and inclusivity," and said that he hoped the brand can learn from its mistake. "We will take on this challenge as a mandate to develop a stronger organization. This is a commitment we all share."

Alessandro Michele, who was more directly responsible for the design of the item, said that he had a specific intention for its design. Michele had taken inspiration from Leigh Bowery, an Australian performance artist who often painted on exaggerated red lips.

Michele wrote that the racist imagery evoked by his sweater causes him "the greatest grief" and that "it is therefore necessary taking full accountability for these effects."

 

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