As well as photoshopping her features, people accused Gigi of wearing blackface, and called her out in the comments of her now-deleted Instagram post.
They also flooded Vogue Italia's Instagram comments with the same accusations, pointing out that they should have just hired a model with a darker skintone.
She explained that, as a model, she has no control over the creative direction of the shoot and her control "ends completely when [she] leaves set".
"There are real issues regarding representation in the fashion industry," Gigi wrote. "It's our responsibility to acknowledge those issues and communicate through them to work towards a more diverse industry."
In a statement to BuzzFeed, a representative for Vogue Italia also apologised for any offence caused by the photoshoot:
Throughout its history, Vogue Italia has respected and encouraged the creative viewpoints of commissioned photographers. In our latest cover shoot by Steven Klein, the vision was to create a beachwear-themed story with a stylized bronzing effect. We understand that the result has caused some debate with our readers, and we sincerely apologize if we have caused any offence.