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US fashion school apologises for 'racist' show

US fashion school apologises for 'racist' show
Early this month, FIT hosted a fashion event where models were asked to wear prosthetic ears, lips and black, bushy eyebrows [Instagram]

The New York City-based Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the chair of the Modern Arts Fashion Design course have publicly apologised after the school displayed a catwalk show that many labelled as "racist".

Early this month, FIT hosted a fashion event where models were asked to wear prosthetic ears, lips and black, bushy eyebrows.

The accessories used generated a backlash after an African-American model told the New York Post she was pressured to wear bizarre, "racist" accessories.

"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," Amy Lefevre said.

"I was told that it was fine to feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds."

Criticism grew after an Instagram account shared photos of the outfits showcased in the catwalk on February 7.

"It shouldn't be down to the models to have to refuse wearing blatantly racist accessories on the runway, especially not in a show thrown by an institution like FIT," the caption read.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Kyle Farmer, chair of the fashion design course, apologised directly to the model and those involved in the show.

"I deeply apologise for any harm and pain I've caused to those involved with the show," he said, "including Amy Lefevre."

"It was never our intent for the show's styling to be interpreted as racist or to make people feel uncomfortable but I take full responsibility and am committed to learning from this situation."

Separately, FIT President Joyce F Brown addressed the incident in an open letter on Tuesday.

"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," Brown wrote.

"However, 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."

This is not the first time that the fashion industry has been criticised for racism. In February last year, Gucci faced criticism for a "blackface sweater" that led to calls from celebrities like 50 Cent and Spike Lee to boycott the brand.

Last January, Prada withdrew items over concerns it depicted blackface imagery, while in November 2018 Dolce & Gabbana cancelled its Shanghai fashion show after accusations of racism for an ad that apparently mocked a Chinese woman for eating Italian foods with chopsticks.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

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