US fashion college apologises for 'racist' runway show

Update: February, 20/2020 - 11:42


A model walks the runway wearing Junkai Huang during the Fashion Institute Of Technology's Fine Art Of Fashion And Technology Show at Pier 59 Studios on February 07, 2020 in New York, New York.AFP/VNA Photo

NEW YORK — A prestigious New York fashion college apologised on Wednesday after a catwalk featuring models wearing large prosthetic red lips, ears and bushy eyebrows was branded racist.

The president of the Fashion Institute of Technology said it was investigating the use of the accessories in the February 7 show, which was part of New York Fashion Week.

Joyce Brown said it had not been the creator's intent to make a statement about race but "it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome.

"For that, we apologise -- to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw," she said.

The show made headlines after African-American model Amy Lefevre, 25, told the New York Post tabloid that she had refused to wear the props because they were "clearly racist".

In a statement posted on Instagram, Jonathan Kyle Farmer, chairman of the fashion design program which ran the show, apologised directly to Lefevre.

The controversy comes after Italian fashion house Prada said earlier this month it would take steps to fight racism and promote diversity following uproar over its sale of monkey-like key chain figurines.

Prada was forced to apologise in December 2018 after it featured so-called "Pradamalia" objects that had exaggerated red lips and evoked blackface caricatures in its New York store.

Critics said the merchandise -- which was pulled from shelves following the outcry -- resembled Sambo, a racist caricature that reinforced negative stereotypes about America's black community.

The problematic custom of blackface dates back to about 1830, and so-called "minstrel shows", when white performers caked their faces in greasepaint or shoe polish and drew on exaggerated lips. — AFP