An African American model refused to wear bizarre, ‘racist’ accessories – including ‘monkey ears’ and large synthetic lips – during a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) runway show.
The show took place at Manhattan’s Pier59 Studios during New York Fashion Week, with the event designed to showcase designs from 10 students graduating from FIT’s inaugural Master of Fine Arts (MFA) class in Fashion Design.
An African American model spoke against racism
Amy Lefevre is a 25-year-old model. She has worked as a model for four years. Throughout the years she has appeared on more than 20 runway shows. Although she has been well aware of the fashion industry, this incident was something she had never experienced before.
Amy is based in New York. The model went on to walk the runway at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The event was held on February 7. However, she refused to wear the entire outfit. Which included the monkey lip ears and oversized synthetic money lips. Apparently the monkey ears and lips were made from a sex toy. The model walked the runway. After finishing the show, she stormed out.
Amy spoke to the New York Post saying, “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. I was told that it was fine to feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds.”
She continued, “I was literally shaking. I could not control my emotions. My whole body was shaking. I have never felt like that in my life. People of color are struggling too much in 2020 for the promoters not to have vetted and cleared accessories for the shows.”
Racial undertones in fashion
The other models who were not African American did not mind walking the ramp with the outfit.
The show was held at Manhattan’s Pier59 Studios. Along with the New York Fashion Week. Ten students who were graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology designed the pieces for the show. The students were graduating with a degree of Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design.
Jonathan Kyle Farmer who is the professor of the institute and the MFA Fashion Design chair was the director of the show. Richard Thornn the creative director of NAMES LDN produced the fashion show.
The New York Post reported that the designs were the work of a student graduate Junkai Huang from China. He claimed that he did not seem to understand the racial undertones within his work.
However, a witness told the New York Post that Huang had intended the original concept. He wanted to highlight the ‘ugly features of the body’.
The fashion industry
Amy Lefevre told her agency, Q Model Management what had happened. And her agency had been furious about the incident. However, an agency representative told the New York Post that they had received conflicting reports regarding the event. The representative also suggested that Amy Lefevre’s account was unreliable.
Amy had also claimed that Thornn repeatedly attempted to strong-arm her. She added saying, “They (Q Model Management) just don’t want their name to be anywhere near this.”
This event did not just happen overnight. They were planned way before. A student has been backstage. This student had supported Amy’s version of the event. He/she claimed that several students had made their objections to the accessories very clear. And this has happened the day prior to the event.
The anonymous student told the New York Post, “We brought it up to [Thornn] multiple times. We said she cannot wear this. This is wrong. He screamed in my face, ‘You need to back down and get away.’ It was such a grave lack of judgment.”
The institute backs up their students
The President of the Fashion Institute of technology also has something to say. Dr. Joyce F. Brown told the New York Post, “This program protects a student’s freedom to craft their own personal and unique artistic perspectives as designers, to be even what some would consider being provocative so that they find that voice.”
He also added, “However the provocative design and fashion might be though, my commitment to ensuring that people are not made to feel uncomfortable, offended, or intimidated is also of the utmost importance not only to me personally but to the college community as well.”
“We take this obligation very, very seriously and will investigate and take appropriate action regarding any complaint or concern that is made in this situation.”
This incident is not the only example of the fashion industry coming under fire for allegedly racist designs. There are bigger and more famous brands that have done something similar.
For example Last February, Gucci has forced to withdraw an $890 jumper. This jumper was perceived to resemble ‘blackface’. They had designed a blackface turtleneck that was not acceptable by many.