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Harlem Designer Dapper Dan Says He Met With Gucci on ‘Blackface' Sweater

The turtleneck black wool balaclava-style sweater, which covers the nose and includes a red cut-out for the mouth, sparked widespread backlash

What to Know

  • Harlem designer Dapper Dan says he has met with Gucci's CEO over its response to an $890 sweater that resembled blackface
  • The black sweater with a pull-up neck featured a cutout surrounded by cartoonish red lips; it has been pulled from stores and online
  • The NYC designer, who has had previous qualms with the brand, says it's now up to the brand to deliver a plan to make amends

An influential Harlem designer says he has had his meeting with Gucci's CEO on an $890 sweater that drew widespread backlash for its resemblance to blackface, declaring it's now time for the luxury brand to make amends.

In an Instagram post Friday afternoon, designer Dapper Dan, whose given name is Daniel R. Ray, wrote that "some of the best minds from the corporate world" participated in the meeting, the large majority of them people of color.

"They made great demands," Dapper Dan wrote. "It's time for Gucci to answer.That is supposed to happen today."

He said he would announce a town hall meeting in Harlem to talk about how the community feels about Gucci's proposals once those proposals have been received. It wasn't clear who else was in attendance at Friday's meeting; Dapper Dan said in a post Sunday that Gucci's CEO had agreed to fly from Italy to Harlem this week to discuss the matter with community and industry leaders.

"There is no excuse nor apology that can erase this kind of insult," he wrote in that Sunday post. "There cannot be inclusivity without accountability."

Gucci has apologized for the turtleneck black wool balaclava-style sweater, which covered the nose and included a red cut-out for the mouth. The fashion house pulled it from online and physical stores, saying in a statement it was committed to diversity and considered it a "fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected and at the forefront of every decision we make." 

Earlier this week, Gucci's creative director broke his silence on the matter, saying racism was never his intention

Alessandro Michele, a design force at the Italian fashion house, lamented in a letter to employees both his own pain and "that of the people who saw in one of my creative projects an intolerable insult." 

Michele wrote the sweater was not inspired by blackface but by the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer who often used flamboyant face makeup and costumes. Nonetheless, he said he took "full accountability" for the sweater.

Dapper Dan has had previous qualms with the brand which appeared to copy one of his designs in 2017, but more recently partnered with the fashion house to open the Gucci Dapper Dan Atelier Studio, an homage to his original Dapper Dan Boutique in Harlem.  

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