Gucci’s creative director has apologised after facing backlash over a jumper which “resembled blackface”, saying he is sorry for the hurt caused.
Alessandro Michele, who has been at the helm of the fashion house’s creative vision since 2015, wrote in a letter to employees that racism was not his intention but he took “full accountability”.
The $890 (£690) balaclava-style jumper featured a cut-out mouth outlined by cartoonish red lips.
Gucci pulled the item from its stores and website after widespread criticism and ridicule on social media, with many branding the item as insensitive and racist.
Mr Michele claimed the design was inspired by performance artist Leigh Bowery, who was known for his outlandish makeup and costumes – including wearing overlined red lips.
The creative director said the fact his jumper had evoked racist imagery gave him the “greatest grief”.
The Italian fashion house has since apologised and said it is committed to diversity, describing it as a “fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make”.
Following the statement, Gucci’s creative collaborator Dapper Dan said he would be holding company bosses to account over the mistake.
“I am a black man before I am a brand,” he said.
“Another fashion house has gotten it outrageously wrong. There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult.”
Gucci is not the first fashion brand to cause controversy in recent weeks.
Luxury chain Prada pulled a line of accessories in December after critics said characters with brown skin and exaggerated red lips resembled blackface.
Popstar Katy Perry was also accused of evoking racist imagery in her design of two loafer-style shoes which featured prominent red lips.
Gucci is now “evaluating all the processes” to ensure the “right level of awareness and visibility”, according to the company’s CEO.