Source: Bennett Raglin / Getty
A young Black model took an important stand after claiming she was pressured to wear monkey ears and large red lips derived from a sex toy during a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) show, which took place on February 7 during New York City’s legendary Fashion Week.
Amy Lefevre, 25, a model with four years of professional modeling experience, broke down the alarming incident in an interview with The New York Post. Lefevre was selected as one of the models for a special showcase which profiled the work of 10 alumni students from the school’s inaugural Master of Fine Arts class in Fashion Design.
Black model refuses to wear ‘racist’ monkey ears and lips at fashion show https://t.co/ez7FKEA5QH pic.twitter.com/EdtGgDAuZT
— New York Post (@nypost) February 15, 2020
“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,” Lefevre said.
“I was told that it was fine to feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds.”
She said that while she is used to the complex and uncanny nuances supported in the fashion world, she’s never experienced anything like what occurred.
“I was literally shaking. I could not control my emotions. My whole body was shaking. I have never felt like that in my life,” she said. “People of color are struggling too much in 2020 for the promoters not to have vetted and cleared accessories for the shows.”
Lefevre did end up walking, but refused to wear the items during her stroll down the catwalk. She also left immediately after her walk was done. However, many of her peers moved forward with wearing the racist accessories.
The clothes were designed by Junkai Huang, a recent FIT graduate who is originally from China. The clothes were also said to highlight “ugly features of the body.” According to several accounts from people who spoke to the outlet, Huang appeared to be ignorant regarding why his designs were offensive, especially in the eye of a Black woman who faces serious and specific instances of racism and microagressions.
Incredulously Lefevre’s talent agency, Q Model Management, told The Post they were initially furious to hear about her experience, but then deemed her story as “unreliable” after cross checking her account with other attendees at the show. Lefevre now stood without an advocate and surveyor in her corner, who also failed to protect their talent’s emotional needs.
However, other attendees at the show backed up Lefevre’s account in separate interviews with The 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 to be provocative, so that they find that voice,” FIT president Dr. Joyce F. Brown said in a statement obtained by The Post.
“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,” the statement continued.
The incident is especially triggering as Black women continue to be undermined and undervalued in the fashion industry. By co-opting the essence of #BlackGirlMagic and reclaiming trends and accessories that were built for us by us, as well as hypersexualizing and de-prioritizing plus-sized and curvy Black bodies, the fashion industry continues to lack much-needed advancement in a conversation that is discussed routinely and repeatedly.
Not to mention the continued reported incidents of fashion houses and mainstream retailers who somehow overlook using racist imagery to move their product. The use and tearing down of the Black body remains a way to capitalize, alienate and divide.