A model presents a creation by Comme Des Garçons, during the men's Fall/Winter 2020/2021 collection fashion show in Paris on January 17, 2020. (AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)
Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons was at the center of a cultural appropriation row Sunday after it sent out white models in what appeared to be cornrow wigs at its Paris men's fashion week show.
The self-appointed fashion watchdog Diet Prada -- which has a record of pulling up labels on racial insensitivity including the notorious Gucci "blackface" jumper - accused the cult brand of "taking a step back".
Back in 2018, @commedesgarcons cast their first black models in over 20 years for their FW18 show, following critical comments from netizens who noticed they hadn’t featured a black model since 1994. Last night, the avant-garde Japanese label seemed to have taken a step back with their men’s show, this time putting white models in cornrow wigs. Some black models also sported the wigs, while some wore their own hair. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Vogue Runway called them “odd”, which is a curious statement in itself, considering the stigma and discrimination of natural hair and hairstyles that embrace cultural identity (braids, Bantu knots, twists and locs). It was only in 2015 that Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the Oscars made her look like she “smells like patchouli oil or weed”. Suffice it to say, CDG’s decision to appropriate the braided hairstyles for white models is indeed problematic. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On the positive side, more states are legislating to ban race-based hair discrimination, following New York and California’s decision in 2019. Dieters, what do you think about the wigs at Comme des Garçons? The look on the model’s faces say it all, don’t you think? • #commedesgarcons #culturalappropriation #pfw #pfwm #pfw20 #cornrows #wig #wigs #caucasity #commepocracy #reikawakubo #adrianjoffe #discrimination #hair #naturalhairstyles #locs #locstyles #blackhair #blackhairstyles #naturallycurly #protectivestyles #goodhair #model #malemodel #avantgarde #cdgconverse #cdgplay #cdg #vogue #dietprada
Comme des Garcons was criticized in 2018 for reportedly not using a black model for more than 20 years.
Diet Prada, which has 1.7 million followers on Instagram and uses the platform to regularly chide labels, said even those taking part in the show seemed embarrassed.
"The look on the models' faces says it all," it claimed.
While the brand itself has remained tight-lipped, the French hair stylist responsible for the look took to Instagram to defend it.
Julien Dys said it was meant as a reference to the ancient Egyptians and not cornrows.
"My inspiration for the Comme des Garcons show was an Egyptian prince, a look I found truly beautiful and inspirational," he wrote.
"Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone, ever. If I did I deeply apologize," he added.
One black model in the Paris show Saturday also wore one of the wigs, while two others had their hair in short dreadlocks.
While several black Instagram users supported Comme des Garcons, they also urged the label to "use more African men" with their natural hair.
Many more, however, were offended, with the black supermodel Adwoa Aboah commenting, "Are we surprised?"
Paris men's fashion week ended Sunday with a week of haute couture shows starting with Dior, Iris Van Herpen and Schiaparelli on Monday.
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