The fashion mistake that Gucci’s owner says will not be repeated

Kering, the French luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen wants to usher in a new generation of talent at its storied fashion houses.

For a month, professionals who aspire to work for the luxury conglomerate will be mentored by employees at Kering (PPRUY) and its iconic houses. The opportunity is being offered through Kering’s partnership with Black In Corporate, a non-profit focused on offering workers career resources and opportunities.

“The prerequisite of creativity is actually diversity,” Kering Americas president Laurent Claquin told Yahoo Finance. “We need to celebrate differences and the different points of view. That’s how we spark creativity.”

Kering Chairman and Chief Executive François-Henri Pinault alluded to creativity as a driving force for the company when it released its first-quarter earnings. “While 2021 should still face some impact from the health crisis, the strategy, positioning and creativity of our Houses will enable each one of them to thrive in today’s environment,” Pinault said in April.

SHANGHAI, CHINA – JUNE 29, 2021 – Customers line up in front of the Gucci store at Daimaru Department Store on Nanjing East Road in Shanghai, China, June 29, 2021. (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Store closures have not impeded Kering’s thriving business. Revenue in Q1 soared above pre-pandemic levels to € 3.89 billion, (about $4.6 billion), up 26{ccba7a2b95b607a22ddf747fd2dfd32aff224073631da9265f095c812cbfd265} from € 3.2 billion (about $3.79 billion) the year prior. (As detailed in a recent Credit Suisse report, the ranks of the wealthy swelled despite the broad economic downturn in 2020.)

While the Gucci owner is actively seeking to add diverse viewpoints to its payroll, the company is no stranger to fierce public backlash for failing to do so in the past.

In 2019, the company apologized for featuring a sweater in its fall-winter 2018 collection which critics said evoked blackface. “If we have the right person around the table, then we will be able to not repeat this mistake,” said Claquin.

According to data released by the company to Yahoo Finance, 61{ccba7a2b95b607a22ddf747fd2dfd32aff224073631da9265f095c812cbfd265} percent of Kering’s total hires in the U.S. were people of color in 2019. The following year, minorities represented 62{ccba7a2b95b607a22ddf747fd2dfd32aff224073631da9265f095c812cbfd265} of its U.S. workforce. Kering is casting a wide net with its new mentorship program, opening it up to workers with no experience in the luxury sector.

“It’s not only to check the box, but you need to create the environment for the people to feel valued, and respected, and [included]. You don’t want only to invite people to the party. You want to invite people to dance.”

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