Since Alessandro Michele took the helm at Gucci as creative director two years ago, the brand has transformed from respected design giant to one of the most exciting, innovative international houses of the moment. And while that reputation has mostly pertained to the clothes seen on the runway, it's translating into how the label does business, too. Gucci is the first luxury fashion house to join Parks - Liberi e Uguali, an Italian non-profit that aims to foster inclusive practices in companies, with a focus on sexual orientation and gender identity, per WWD.
Gucci joins other global giants with operations in Italy like Google, Ikea, and Microsoft in committing to creating a workspace that's diverse, respectful, and safe for employees, no matter how they identify on the gender or sexuality spectrum. "At Parks we believe that inclusion and respect can only really make a difference when they encompass everybody," its site reads. The organization, which is named after American civil rights activist Rosa Parks, achieves this goal through consultancy, training, event organization, and internal surveys.
Gucci's pledge to Parks comes after the brand teased a series of "audition videos" for its upcoming pre-fall 2017 campaign, featuring solely models of color — a big shift for Michele, a designer who was at first criticized for casting almost exclusively Caucasian models for his initial catwalks and editorials since being appointed as the brand's creative director.
This major change in how the brand addresses inclusivity, particularly in regards to gender, can also be credited to Gucci's parent company, Kering Group: The luxury conglomerate has made its recent efforts to "address the issue of diversity in all its aspects, particularly gender diversity" public, from its Leadership and Gender Diversity program to its three-year agreement with the United Nation's Women French National Committee, which pledges "active participation" in global efforts such as HeForShe. Last September, it received Gender Equality European & International Standard recognition from Arborus Fund and Bureau Veritas.
"In the past two years, [Gucci has] implemented a complete turnaround of our company, following our mantra of being the voice of self-expression," Marco Bizzarri, the brand's president and chief executive officer, told WWD. "Attracting, retaining and promoting talent, while celebrating ethnic, age, sexual and gender diversity, sexual orientation, and gender identity across the company, is our mission, which is completely consistent with the vision of our parent company, Kering."
Positive headway indeed — and other brands will have to take note, both in terms of their marketing decisions and how they treat those on their payroll. Customers are vocal about their desire for diverse and inclusive representation, and designers risk falling behind if their work doesn't reflect that. Now, let’s hope the progress continues at other prominent fashion labels.