How Gucci Plans on Winning Back Consumers After Blackface Controversy

Gucci has named Renée E. Tirado as its new Global Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.


Image via Getty/Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket


Renée E. Tirado has been named the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Gucci.

The appointment of Tirado in this position, which will see the implementation of a worldwide brand strategy that aims to ensure each tenet of that title is woven into the fabric of Gucci's presence, is a key part of what the company considers its ongoing goal of building a "positive corporate culture" for all.

"I am in the business of making human connections that start with the foundations of inclusivity, respect, and diversity to ensure Gucci remains culturally and economically competitive," Tirado said in a statement Tuesday. "I am honored to join a company that puts these non-negotiable values at the forefront of their business model, not as ‘a nice to have’ but as a key component of its business strategy."

Renée E. Tirado

Tirado reports to Gucci boss Marco Bizzarri and will base her services out of New York. Her expected contributions in this new role notably include overseeing the brand's Cultural Awareness Learning Program, the Global Multicultural Design Fellowship Program, the Internal Global Exchange Program, and the Employee Resource Groups with the ultimate goal of aligning the practices of those programs with the vision of parent company Kering. That company, notably, was the focus of a recent Business of Fashionpiece on its arguable search for a new driver of growth.

She will also be made a member of the Gucci Changemakers Council and the Chime for Change Advisory Board, as well as work closely with VP of Brand and Culture Engagement Antoine Phillips. Additional Tirado-helmed efforts will include the advancement of initiatives on gender equality and strengthening support of the LGBTQIA community.

This move is the latest such effort from Gucci following its blackface sweater controversy earlier this year.

"I am confident that Renée will help us create the meaningful change we want to see not only in our company but in the fashion industry," Bizzarri said Tuesday.

Complex spoke with Tirado about her new position. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.

You've worked with AIG and MLB. How do you think implementing diversity and inclusion will be different for a luxury fashion brand?
Fashion has an amazing opportunity here to lead this agenda across industries. Diversity & Inclusion work is not new. This has been a conversation for over 40 years, it’s just taken different iterations. I believe Gucci can be pretty phenomenal in leading the way to help all businesses across the board because of the brand’s innate ability to be creative, because of its agility, because of everything that it stands for when it comes to celebrating self-expression. So yes, it will be different in all the best and most productive ways possible. 

Part of my job will be about bringing new conversations in. How are we doing with the work force diversity agenda? How can we bring more people that are diverse into not only Gucci, but also the fashion industry in general? How do we provide a level playing field for those new employees to compete and be the future leaders of the industry? How do we leverage Gucci’s core values to make more consumers feel they are a part of this journey and, in turn, grow our business? 

What do you think will be the most challenging thing about your job given the blackface incident?
I think challenging periods for a company can create great opportunities for growth and change. It is clear to me that Gucci is looking to learn from this year. The timeliness of their response, the responsibility they took and thoughtful implementation around creating a comprehensive D&I agenda including hiring this role has set a strong foundation to rebuild trust. As an industry leader, the company has been engaging in an open dialogue with many communities for several years and launching new initiatives that will impact the future of the industry. As the trust grows again, the opportunities will flourish.

I have seen Gucci set the foundation of what it looks like to do it well. You have the leadership buy in, the employees that have an appetite for it, and the robust investment across the board. Not only in my role, but in the fact that Gucci is going to give me the resources to build out a team globally and to build upon existing initiatives as well as creating new ones for the years to come.

How does diversity and inclusion impact business in a positive way? I think many people believe it's something that looks good and should be implemented, but they don't connect it to dollars.
The world is changing at such a rapid pace. 15-20 years ago we were not global per se; this was just reserved for different industries. Now, as human beings we have this global touch in everything that we do in some capacity, especially with social media. So, from a business perspective (and in fashion in particular), if you want to remain competitive and you want to lead the conversation, everything is about understanding, engaging and investing in audiences respectfully.

Consumers want to see themselves reflected in your brand—from the company values you espouse and live to the people you hire and want to invest in your product. So you need to know how to have these conversations and how to communicate your brand in a very inclusive way. So if this agenda is not part of your entire business strategy, at the end of the day not only are you leaving people and consumers behind, but ultimately you are leaving dollars on the table and your relevancy at the door. When you understand the value of this premise and tie it into your brand holistically, it starts to happen organically and, just as importantly, economically. 

What do you have to say to people like our readers who were upset by the blackface incident and are on the fence about whether or not they trust Gucci's diversity initiatives and the brand's authenticity?
I think Gucci has been sincere in its response to addressing recent challenges. For example, the launch of its Changemakers program and the creation of my position will play important roles in this ongoing process. If we take a moment to look at both Gucci’s evolution since Marco took over as CEO and Alessandro’s creative vision since day one, I think people will recognize that diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of Gucci’s narrative. That said a mistake was made, we own it and we are ready to tackle head on and work aggressively to restore confidence in our consumers.

However, real change does not happen overnight. It’s through ongoing efforts that we have an opportunity to shape the brand, and more broadly the industry, to be more open and inclusive. I know personally Gucci is committed to making a long-term, sustained impact and I am excited about the prospect of helping to play a part in that effort.

Latest in Style