Fashion Institute of Technology Apologizes for "Racist" Fashion Show

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The runway show featured models wearing "large prosthetic ears and lips and bushy eyebrows," designed by alum Junkai Huang.

The president of the Fashion Institute of Technology has apologized after the school was accused of hosting a racist fashion show Feb. 7. The MFA program's runway event in New York featured models wearing "large prosthetic ears and lips and bushy eyebrows," which reminded onlookers of racist caricatures.  

FIT's Joyce F. Brown wrote an open letter Tuesday saying, "Currently, it does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories or the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race; however, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome. For that, we apologize — to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw." 

Model Amy Lefevre said she refused to wear the pieces during the show. “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,” Lefevre told the New York Post.

The collection was designed by FIT alum Junkai Huang and shown at Chelsea Piers.

"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," Brown wrote. "There is no room for error which can be interpreted as racism, homophobia, religious intolerance or any other kind of bigotry."

She said the institute will work with its diversity council, faculty senate and the student government association, among others, to address concerns. 

The incident follows Prada's accusations of racism in December 2018, when the Italian fashion house removed monkey-like figurines with oversize red lips, which were likened to blackface, from shelves. Three months later, Prada announced its Diversity and Inclusion Council, co-chaired by Ava DuVernay, who told The Hollywood Reporter at the time, "I don't know what the hell happened with that product."

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Miuccia Prada will receive sensitivity training as part of a settlement with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. As for why offensive fashion keeps happening, Milan-based journalist Paola Jacobbi believes it's a result of ignorance. "Italians think political correctness is boring, an obstacle to creativity," he told THR.

Last year, Dior also had to cancel an ad campaign for its Sauvage perfume that starred Johnny Depp, due to backlash for its depiction of Native Americans.