Fashion fracas as white models sent down the runway in cornrow wigs
Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons was at the centre 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".
Comme des Garcons was criticised 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.
The brand responded by telling Dazed Digital that the look was meant as a reference to the ancient Egyptians and not cornrows.
"The inspiration for the headpieces for Comme des Garçons menswear FW’20 show was the look of an Egyptian prince. It was never ever our intention to disrespect or hurt anyone — we deeply and sincerely apologise for any offence it has caused.”
Julien Dys, the French hair stylist responsible for the look, echoed this statement in an apologetic Instagram post.
"My inspiration for the Comme des Garcons show was an Egyptian prince, a look I found truly beautiful and inspirational. A look that was a homage," he wrote.
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.