Racism allegations are in fashion?

Nadja Beschetnikova
January 29, 2018

The fashion industry has been vigorously shaken by racism and homophobic scandals in the past years. And 2018 seems to come to a maximum amplitude even at its start. Just this month, the Internet collectively confronted a racially insensitive campaign by H&M and offensive pro-slavery merchandise carried by Amazon. While there still were aftershocks from both stories, Paris Fashion Week became another accident scene.

The most recent scandal targeting the black community has come from digital entrepreneur and Buro 24/7 and The Tot cofounder, Miroslava Duma.

When she posted a photo of a fashion show invitation from her friend and designer Ulyana Sergeenko to her Instagram, the industry went berserk. Our postmodern society showed no appreciation of citation. N-Word as a reference to Kanye West and Jay-Z song created a huge backlash. 

Supermodel Naomi Campbell commented on the situation, reposting a screenshot and writing, "This better not be real!"

Commenters responded in fury with replies like "you deserve the worst in life" and "die white trash die".

Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung, the designer, who partnered with MasterCard on its "Start Something Priceless" campaign, was upset about the whole situation.
"I think it’s sad. These are world-traveled, educated girls with means — and you know, nowadays you don’t have to go out of your way or anything; you just have to Google it", he said.

Both women posted apologies, but the statements they released in response to the public backlash are even more telling of their lack of respect for black heritage.

"Quite possibly the worst apology for casual racism I have ever read", wrote Matthew Schneier, a style reporter from The New York Times.

Ulyana’s response comes off as both dismissive and self-victimizing. In many comments, she was criticised for referencing of her daughter’s Armenian heritage that has absolutely nothing to do with black heritage.

Tyler McCall, who is the deputy editor of Fashionista.com, expressed her outrage in an article.

Tyler McCall

To my fellow white people, for the last time: No, you cannot use the n-word. You cannot dress up in blackface or in yellowface. You cannot use people of other races as props in photo shoots. You cannot wear cornrows or dreadlocks or Bantu knots. I don't care if you're not American and you somehow think you're exempt from these conversations about race (which, what kind of logic is that???); your culture is no longer an excuse. It is 2018. You have been told. And if you mess up, and someone calls you out on it, a simple, "I'm sorry. I will learn and I will do better," is the correct response.

In her apology on Instagram, Miroslava briefly acknowledged her mistake. “The word is utterly offensive, and I regret promoting it and am very sorry,” said Miroslava in a five-sentence Instagram response. “My organizations and I are committed to our core values of inclusion and diversity.”


?????????? ?? Miroslava Duma (@miraduma)

This isn't the first time Miroslava has been accused of racism. In 2014, she infuriated with a feature on her website Buro 24/7 that portrayed then-editor-in-chief of Garage magazine, Dasha Zhukova, who was at the time married to the billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, sitting on top of a chair made to resemble a black woman in bondage.

Moreover, influencer and fashion blogger Bryanboy revealed a video of Miroslava Duma making transphobic comments at a 2012 lecture in Moscow.

After being asked how she feels about men in the industry dressing in feminine or women's clothing, Miroslava calmly responds, “Honestly, I dislike that. Because somewhere, on TV or in a magazine, a little boy could see it and that boy wouldn’t understand it correctly, react correctly. I think a certain kind of censorship and refined culture is needed here.” 

The two examples that are cited are Bryanboy himself, as well as transgender model Andreja Pejic.  She added, “Thank God, there aren’t that many of them!” saying she would never publish someone like Peji? on her site, Buro 24/7, due to her concern “about the beauty and purity of the images we publish.”

Bryanboy, who initially brought the video to our attention, made a short but clear statement on the transphobic comments from Miroslava Duma immediately. "Racism and bigotry is never cool", wrote he on his Instagram, which could indirectly refer to Sergeenko's  clumsy excuse of using N-Word. She shared, “Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians, and NP is one of my favorite songs,” continuing, “And yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it.”

Andreja Pejic gave herself time to process the news and issued her response later. And, out of all, it's the best yet.  Without any hot anger, Andreja shared a plain-spoken and honest message about gender diversity within the fashion industry.

“I won’t say it wasn’t hurtful. However instead of focusing on this blatant ignorance, I couldn’t help but realize the contrast between the state of our business today in comparison to 2012, the year of this video.” She proudly says, “Today we are part of a movement of unique talent that is smashing the old categories that once stood and proudly displaying a spectrum of age/color/gender/class.”
Andreja closes by adding, “Evolution is no stranger to our cause and one day we’ll see revolution.”
You can read the whole message below.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the time I’ve been working in this business. I’ve never been the girl to do every campaign or walk every show, but I’m happy that I’ve had some pretty unique moments in this industry – a few of which have challenged the dominant paradigm, outdated views of gender and a few that have even spilled over into pop culture.  I woke up to a video yesterday, where a woman by the name of Miroslava Duma said some pretty ugly things about @bryanboycom and me during a conference (scroll right to see). I wont say it wasn’t hurtful. However instead of focusing on this blatant ignorance, I couldn’t help but realize the contrast between the state of our business today in comparison to 2012, the yr of this video. Fashion hasn’t always celebrated, to quote @miraduma “people like us.” Today I can say I’ve walked for iconic designers like @MarcJacobs and even landed on pages of American Vogue as none other than myself. However for a long time I didn’t believe that I was deserving of a firm place in fashion. I remember when I was one of only two people representing a specific “trend” that many people would now place under the title “gender diversity in the fashion space.” Circa 2010 my friend @LeaT and I found International media attention on the one hand and no small amount of ignorance and scorn on the other. Today we are part of a movement of unique talent that is smashing the old categories that once stood and proudly displaying a spectrum of age/color/gender/class. @miraduma ‘s hopes that “this trend fizzles out quickly” have not been realized. I am thankful I got to stick around! I understand that an apology has been issued and I do think people should be given the chance to grow, change, overcome their ignorance. To my little sisters, bros and non binary siblings who don’t have the resources to fight back, to change schools, pay for medical care or the support of thousands of followers and who experience cruelty directed at them only because they have the guts to follow their hearts and minds in the hope of an honest, happy life please remember, chin up ALWAYS! Evolution is no stranger to our cause and one day we’ll see revolution??

?????????? ?? Andreja Pejic (@andrejapejic)

Stylist and Fashion Editor at 032c Marc Goehring  weighed in on the mess pre-apology with an image of himself sporting a t-shirt reading: “Hi, my name is Miroslava Duma. I am a racist. I am a homophobe. I am a transphobe.

Bye Gurl @miraduma ????

?????????? ?? Marc Goehring (@marcgoehring)

Miroslava had to justify her words and actions again in another Instagram message, claiming  “I’m as shocked as anyone to be viewing that footage today, and to see for my own eyes how utterly offensive and hurtful my actions were back then. The world is evolving at an extraordinary pace […] the person I was six years ago is not who I am today.”

Sergeenko's business seems to be harmed less. At least her show took place despite the appeal to boycott it. Meanwhile, Duma has to deal with drastic consequences. 

She has been removed from the board of The Tot, a children's company that she and Nasiba Adilova founded in 2015.

"I stand by @thetot's decision, and hope this inspires people to consider how their actions and words affect others," wrote Adilova on Instagram.

Though Sergeenko better shouldn't hope for an instant forgiveness. In the past years, even big fashion houses like Dolce&Gabbana or Lanvin had to face with strong racism allegations.

The earrings from D&G SS 2013, shown at Milan Fashion Week, were reminiscent of Blackamoor statues that can be found in Italy, but more recognizably to non-Italians, Aunt Jemima dolls. Designers have been accused of racism as many viewers saw a racist caricature of a black woman in these earrings.

It is worthy of note that last year Paris Fashion Week was as well overshadowed by ‘racism’ and ‘cruelty’ claims. James Scully, an industry casting director, accused the fashion House of Lanvin of specifically requesting not "to be presented with women of color". Indeed, several critics noticed that only two black women appeared in the show.

And we all remember which aftermath had a bar-hopping for John Galliano back in 2011. The British designer has been given a suspended fine of €6,000 by a Paris court for racist and antisemitic rants at people in a Paris bar.

According to people, who witnessed the scene at La Perle bar in Paris's Marais district, he repeatedly insulted them with lines including "fucking ugly Jewish bitch" and "fucking Asian bastard".

At his trial Galliano blamed the stress of the fashion industry, excusing his addiction to alcohol, which led to the undue behavior.

As the result, despite the apologies and admission of guilt, he was removed from the helm of Dior in March 2011.

The fatal N-word, which threats to damage Sergeenko's reputation now, was recently also the subject of a controversy at Victoria's Secret show.

Karlie Kloss, who walked in the show, uploaded a video on YouTube that gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the models before they walked the runway, singing the lyrics to Bodak Yellow by rapper Cardi B.

The song contains the words: "Hit the store, I can get 'em both, I don't wanna choose, and I'm quick, cut a n---- off, so don't get comfortable." 

Doubtless, the fashion industry should celebrate diversity and give equal opportunities to every member of the community.
But as the recent events showed, the highest equality can be found only in kicking off a shitstorm on social media.