When it comes to diversifying the fashion industry, “change” is more than a buzzword; it’s a moral imperative if the historically exclusive arena is to evolve. Last year, Gucci, along with many other luxury brands, was forced to confront its own missteps in creating “diversity and inclusion,” both by hiring a dynamic new head of D&I and creating the North America Changemakers Council, a melanin-rich advisory panel pioneered by collaborator and designer Dapper Dan. Under the council’s advisement, the legacy brand announced the creation of the five-year Gucci North America Changemakers Impact Fund, “an annual $1 million (USD) grant fund to support community organizations creating social impact across diverse communities in 12 cities in North America focused on arts and culture; social justice and equity; and education,” according to a statement from the label.
When the application process opened last October, more than 145 organizations applied for the fund. In consultation with the Changemakers Council and outside experts, Gucci has selected 16 grantees from the initiative’s focus cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
As stated in a press release on the announcement issued Monday:
The 16 grantees awarded for 2020 focus on improving opportunity and access for diverse people across a number of social impact initiatives, including leadership development in venture capital and technology entrepreneurship, fashion programs for underserved youth, criminal justice reform, and urban farming education and food access programming.
Each grant is up to $50,000 for a one-year funding cycle starting January 1, 2020 and will be used to help the recipients create new programs or scale existing initiatives in their communities.
The 16 inaugural grantees are as follows (excerpted from Gucci’s statement):
- HBCU VC (Atlanta): “HBCUvc’s mission is to foster the development of inclusive innovation economies...by increasing the number of Black and Latinx venture capital leaders in communities where entrepreneurs face barriers in accessing investment capital.”
- After School Matters (Chicago): “After School Matters (ASM) is a non-profit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities to nearly 19,000 Chicago high school teens each year...Teens develop technical skills from sewing basics and fashion illustration to garment design and construction. Teens also develop 21st century, socio-emotional, skills critical for college- and career-readiness.”
- Braven (Chicago): “Braven is a national nonprofit that supports untapped students from college to career by partnering with universities and employers to offer a two-part experience. The experience begins with a credit-bearing college course and is followed by ongoing support until graduation.”
- Design Core (Detroit): “Design Core Detroit’s mission is to establish Detroit as a recognized and valued world-class resource for creative talent by strengthening design-driven businesses...Funding from Gucci Changemakers will support Design in the City...They will recruit six emerging female designers, with an emphasis on women of color, and connect them with six carefully selected neighborhood retail spaces to create installations of their designs and showcase them for 30 days during Detroit’s Month of Design.”
- Writers in the Schools (Houston): “WITS Performance is an arts education initiative that harnesses the energy and relevance of spoken-word poetry to cultivate confidence, leadership, civic engagement, self-expression, community, and collaboration among Greater Houston youth. Professional spoken-word artists offer generative writing workshops, empowering students as the experts on their own personal narratives.”
- Black AIDS Institute (Los Angeles): “The Black AIDS Institute is the leading organization in the US combating HIV and AIDS in the Black community. The Mission of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) is to stop the AIDS epidemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV.”
- Educate Tomorrow (Miami): “Educate Tomorrow supports Miami students who experienced foster care or homelessness get into and graduate from college...This support includes complete care coordination, rewards for reaching goals...academic and career advice, emergency financial assistance, trauma reduction, and a sense of family with milestone achievement celebrations, all of which equals increased stability in the lives of people desperately in need of it.”
- The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth (Miami): “The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth is the only non- profit organization in Miami-Dade County exclusively committed to providing prevention, early intervention social services, and advocacy to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) youth, their families, and communities.”
- ACLU of Louisiana (New Orleans): “Since 1956, the ACLU of Louisiana has worked to advance and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Louisiana. The ACLU of Louisiana seeks to carry out this mission by working through the courts, state legislatures, and in communities, to protect the disfavored, the condemned and the vulnerable.”
- Custom Collaborative (New York): “Custom Collaborative is a New York City-based entrepreneurship and workforce development program that trains and supports women from low-income and immigrant communities to launch fashion careers and businesses.”
- Slay TV (New York): “SLAY TV is not just an application. It’s a suite of applications covering multiple platforms, both mobile and TV. SLAY TV distributes curated and original queer digital content to consumers globally.”
- National Youth Foundation (Philadelphia): “The National Youth Foundation (NYF) was co-founded by women of color who wanted to change the landscape of children’s books and to empower youth to make those changes...For this initiative, students in underserved areas of Philadelphia will engage with multicultural heroines to write and illustrate books on those women. For the inaugural project, a group of diverse students will write and illustrate a picture book about one of the first women to record a hip hop song, Lady B.”
- Creativity Explored (San Francisco): “For the past 36 years, Creativity Explored has given artists with developmental disabilities the means to create and share their work with the community, celebrating the power of art to change lives. Creativity Explored artists have seen their work exhibited in museums and galleries in 14 countries, and have earned nearly $2 million from their art.”
- TalkingPoints (San Francisco): “TalkingPoints’ mission itself is focused on building connections and opportunities in diverse communities—by connecting and strengthening meaningful relationships between parents and teachers that often do not happen because of language, cultural barriers.”
- UforChange, (Toronto, Ont., Canada): “UforChange provides vulnerable youth, ages 16- 29, from Toronto and the GTA access to free 8-month Core Arts Programs which include: photography, fashion design and DJ arts. Upon completion, a graduation exhibition is hosted for their students to exhibit their work, network and sell their creations...UforChange participants are youth, new immigrants or first-generation Canadian, living in poverty, and managing a variety of personal challenges, such as bullying, LGBQT, mental illness, etc.”
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund (Washington, D.C.): “Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. TMCF member-schools include the publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs)...TMCF continues to increase opportunities for HBCU and PBI students so they can afford college and develop their leadership skills and have meaningful careers that will support them and their families.”
Additionally, in its first year of $1 million funding, Gucci’s Impact Fund has supported six additional nonprofits. Next up? Two scholarship programs—Gucci Changemakers Scholars and Gucci Changemakers X CFDA Scholars by Design—which will be awarded this spring. The next round of applications for the Gucci Changemakers Impact Fund will open in the Fall of 2020.