News & Runway

Nope: 5 Tone-Deaf Designer Moments from the Fall 2015 Shows

It seems we can’t get through Fashion Month without somebody getting offended. Whether it’s cultural appropriation, blackface or just plain old offensive language, it seems some designers can’t help but be controversial. Guess that’s just the way “inspiration” works, right? We rounded up five side-eye-worthy moments from this season’s runways that made us feel a little (or a lot) icky — and had us saying simply, NOPE. 

KTZ’s Native Inspiration


Image: Imaxtree

KTZ’s Native American-inspired collection looked a bit familiar to a few people. Designer Marjan Pejoski was criticized by Native American activists for using patterns reminiscent of the work of Native designer Bethany Yellowtail, who says the geometric patterns she uses in her work have been in her family for generations. Blogger Adrienne K. called KTZ’s designs a “mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.”

Claudio Cutugno’s Blackface Bees 

Next Generation: Claudio Cutugno - Runway & Close-ups - MFW FW2015

Image: Getty

Claudio Cutugno opted to send his models down the runway in glittering black face paint, which was supposed to convey the image of a woman’s face being swarmed with bees. The concept was inspired by the work of artist Emilio Isgrò. We’re not sure what kind of bees Cutugno is familiar with, but last we checked, they’re definitely not glittery. The face paint is a tough call. To some, it looks more like a mud mask than outright blackface, but considering one of the models wore a black mask that actually looked like bees were covering her face, we wonder why Cutugno would venture into such dubious territory at all. 

DSquared2’s “DSquaw” Collection 

DSquared FW 15

Image: Imaxtree

DSquared2 got really inspired by Native Canadian and Alaskan culture, so much so that the brand decided to incorporate it into its designs — but only in the most offensive way possible. It wasn’t enough to appropriate Native garb (is it ever?), so the designers reposted an image of their collection to Instagram with #dsquaw. “Squaw” is an offensive term for Native women, and the label’s Instagram followers became rightfully upset at the use of the word. DSquared2’s Instagram account has since deleted the hashtag from the photo, but that doesn’t make the situation any less of a mess.

Anrealage’s Black Paint

Anrealage blackface

Image: Getty

Anrealage designer Kunihiko Morinaga played with dark and light for his Fall 2015 collection, painting his models black to showcase the clothes, which looked as if they were being illuminated by a spotlight. The black body paint was supposed to enhance the effect, but to a few people, it looked a little fishy, especially considering the models were outfitted with headpieces that were reminiscent of an afro. Cosmo notes that Morinaga has painted his models’ faces black before, so while we get what he was trying to convey, it is a bit questionable considering his past.

Givenchy’s “Victorian Cholas”

Givenchy Fall 2015

Image: Imaxtree

Oh, Riccardo! We wanted to love Givenchy’s latest, but the “Chola Victorian” reference the designer was going for gave more than a few people pause — especially since the look was executed on a mostly white cast. Save for the gelled-down baby hairs (or, for the unfamiliar, “kiss curls”), the collection skewed more “Victorian” than “Chola.”  Besides all that, the issue many people took was that since Givenchy is a major high fashion label, the Chola reference and the culture behind it will almost certainly be lost once it hits the mainstream. 

more Fashion Week articles on