Recent FIT graduate Melanie Wong, Fashion Design ’19, is one of 11 recipients of Gucci’s first-ever Multicultural Design Fellowship. The storied Italian luxury house announced the winners October 24. In August, Wong was completing a study abroad program in Italy when the executive director of FIT’s Presidential Scholars program, Yasemin Celik Levine, notified her about the opportunity and encouraged her to apply. For the program, Gucci was seeking concepts from people of color who were recent graduates of design programs; Wong adapted her thesis, which was in knitwear. Called ABC, American Born Chinese, her collection embodied the tensions second- and third-generation immigrants feel about protecting their culture. Gucci flew Wong and four other recent FIT graduates to Rome to present their ideas at the storied Palazzo Taverna. The fact that Wong’s work was knitwear helped her stand out, she says.
Gucci’s design team selected the fellowship recipients from 50 students representing 10 global fashion schools from outside Europe. After a recent controversy about a culturally insensitive product, the company has been making attempts to be less Eurocentric and more inclusive; the fellowship program is part of that effort. The fellowship lasts one year, beginning in April 2020. Half of every week students intern with the brand; the other half of the week, students take courses in Italian at a school in Rome that Gucci created expressly for fellowship recipients.
“I’m incredibly surprised. I wouldn’t have applied to work at a high-end, luxury brand,” Wong said. “This is an opportunity I feel good about.”