Fashion college probes runway show criticized as racist, compared to blackface

The Fashion Institute of Technology has commissioned an investigation into a controversial runway show that reminded some observers of blackface.
The Fashion Institute of Technology has commissioned an investigation into a controversial runway show that reminded some observers of blackface.(INSTAGRAM)
The Fashion Institute of Technology has commissioned an investigation into a controversial runway show that reminded some observers of blackface.(INSTAGRAM)
Updated on Feb 24, 2020 10:22 AM IST
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New York | ByAssociated Press

The Fashion Institute of Technology has commissioned an investigation into a controversial runway show that reminded some observers of blackface. The college apologized for the accessories donned at the show, which was heavily criticized on social media. The accessories included large prosthetic ears and oversize plastic red lips, but the college said Friday they were not “aimed at invoking or provoking racial implications.”

“This moment, in our minds, is not about closing a chapter and letting wounds heal. It is the beginning of accountability. And we cannot expect our community to trust us without a full examination of how this came about,” FIT President Joyce Brown said in a statement.

The investigation will examine “what led up to” the Feb. 7 event, which coincided with New York Fashion Week.

Model Amy Lefévre, 25, who is black, refused to wear the exaggerated lips and ultimately walked the runway without them.

 

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It shouldn’t be down to the models to have to refuse wearing blatantly racist accessories on the runway, especially not in a show thrown by an institution like @fitnyc. In an alumni show celebrating their 75th anniversary, MFA graduate Junkai Huang showed a collection that was meant to highlight the "ugly features of the body". The choice of exaggerated bright red fake lips and "monkey ears", as well as the school’s response, are leaving us shaking our heads. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Nearing a breakdown, African-American model Amy Lefevre (@lefevrediary ) spoke up about the accessories, but was told by staff it was "ok to be uncomfortable for only 45 seconds". It’s one thing when it’s a pair of tricky heels, but quite another when you’re made up to look like racist caricatures from the not-so-distant past. Multiple complaints had been made in the days leading up to the show as well, with several people objecting. One anonymous student who was witness backstage, said the show’s producer @richardthornn told the group to "back down and get away" when they brought up the issue again. The accessories didn’t end up making it onto Lefevre, but that didn’t stop them from going down the runway on other models. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In a statement to the NY Post, FIT president Dr. Joyce F. Brown emphasized allowing the students the "freedom to craft their own personal and unique artistic perspectives as designers, to be even what some would consider to be provocative", but said they would investigate further. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In a time when luxury brands are taking swift action by pulling offensive products and implementing diversity councils in response to similar scandals, it’s a shame to see a learning institution dragging their feet. Shouldn’t they be the ones broadening insights for the ones who will lead fashion in the future and not reinforcing the same aspects that have made the industry notoriously problematic? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • #fit #fitnyc #suny #cuny #fashionschool #college #mfa #mastersdegree #alumni #fitalumni #fashiondesigner #design #designer #runway #model #blackface #racism #monkey #grotesque #sexdoll #bodyimage #lumpsandbumps #wiwt #ootd #runwaymodel #nyfw #fashionweek #dietprada

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“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 told the New York Post. “I have never felt like that in my life.”

Brown said the college’s dean of the School of Graduate Studies and chair of the MFA Fashion Design Department were placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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