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Black Model Refuses To Wear Racist Monkey Lips And Ears At Fashion Institute Of Technology Show

by : Julia Banim on : 17 Feb 2020 17:51
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An African American model has spoken out about her refusal to wear bizarre, ‘racist’ accessories – including ‘monkey ears’ and large synthetic lips – during a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) runway show.

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Amy Lefevre, 25, has worked as a model for four years and appeared on more than 20 catwalks. Although she had been well aware of bigotry within the fashion industry, this incident was reportedly beyond anything she had previously experienced.

New York-based Amy went on to walk during the event on February 7, but refused to wear either the monkey ears or the oversized lips, which had been made from a sex toy. As soon as she had finished her time on the runway, she stormed out.

Speaking with the New York Post, Amy said:

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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.

Other models walking in the show – who were not African-American – wore the pieces on the runway.

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.

The show was directed by FIT professor and MFA Fashion Design chair Jonathan Kyle Farmer, and produced by NAMES LDN Creative Director Richard Thornn.

As reported by the New York Post, the designs were the work of recent FIT grad Junkai Huang, from China, who observers claimed did not seem to understand the racial overtones within his work.

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A witness told the publication Huang had intended the original concept to highlight ‘ugly features of the body’.

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Lefevre has claimed her agency, Q Model Management, had been ‘furious’ after she told them what happened. However, an agency representative told the New York Post they had received ‘conflicting reports’ in regards to the event, suggesting Lefevre’s account was unreliable.

Lefevre, who has claimed Thornn repeatedly attempted to strong-arm her, reportedly said:

They [Q Model Management] just don’t want their name to be anywhere near this.

A student who had been backstage has since supported Lefevre’s version of events, claiming several students had made their objections to the accessories clear 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 judgement.

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FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown told the New York Post:

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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 to be provocative, so that they find that voice.

However provocative design and fashion might be though, my commitment to ensure 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 isn’t the only example in recent times of the fashion industry coming under fire for allegedly racist designs. Just last February, Gucci was forced to withdraw a $890 jumper after it was perceived to resemble ‘blackface’.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Fashion, Amy Lefevre, Fashion Institute of Technology, Manhattan’s Pier59 Studios, New York

Credits

New York Post and 1 other
  1. New York Post

    Black model refuses to wear ‘racist’ monkey ears and lips at fashion show

  2. Fashion Institute of Technology

    FIT’s First Fashion Design MFA Class Makes NYFW Debut