Fashion school apologises for ‘racist’ runway show with giant lips prosthetics
The president of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) has publicly apologised after facing backlash for a ‘clearly racist’ fashion show.
The New York fashion school hosted an alumni runway show on 7 February, showcasing designers from its MFE Fashion Design class, but the models were wearing enormous prosthetic lips, ears and bushy eyebrows.
Model Amy Lefevre told The New York Post that she felt ‘uncomfortable’ and refused to wear the weird accessories, which she described as ‘clearly racist’ and resembling ‘monkey ears’.
‘I stood there almost ready to break down, telling the staff that I felt incredibly uncomfortable with having to wear these pieces and that they were clearly racist,’ she said.
When Instagram account Diet Prada shared a critical post displaying the outfits modelled on the runway, people in the comments were quick to share their outrage at the use of this kind of imagery.
‘It shouldn’t be down to the models to have to refuse to wear blatantly racist accessories on the runway,’ read the post. ‘ The choice of exaggerated bright red fake lips and “monkey ears”, as well as the school’s response, are leaving us shaking our heads.’
‘Straight up in your face racism … Are they seriously out their minds????’ said one incredulous poster in the comments.
‘Black outrage sells. They know what they are doing,’ added another.
‘How do people not understand that this isn’t ok and keep doing it again and again and again?’
In 2018, Prada was accused of using ‘blackface’ imagery after adding black dolls with exaggerated red lips to some of its designs – sparking calls for a boycott of the designer brand.
FIT president Dr Joyce F Brown shared an open letter on the school’s website explaining the decision to use the accessories and apologising.
‘Currently, it does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories for the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race; however, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome,’ she said.
‘For that, we apologise – to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw.
‘It is my position that all students must be afforded the safe space and freedom to learn and develop their voice, even if the voice is provocative to some.
‘At the same time, I am deeply committed to creating a teaching and learning environment in which people are not offended or intimidated. There is a balance that must be struck between these two imperatives, one that is not always easy to find, but it is the college’s responsibility to find it. ‘