Japanese luxury fashion label Comme des Garçons came under fire this week when it presented its men’s fall/winter 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week. The brand was called out for cultural appropriation as the predominantly white models who came down the runway were wearing lace front cornrow wigs which were quick to take the attention away from the brightly colored clothes.
Known for being a protective hairstyle for natural and textured hair, cornrows are typically worn by black people, and while white models wearing cornrowed wigs was enough to spark outrage, the placement of the wigs further intensified it. The exposed lace from the wigs placed on top of the models’ heads like hats nearly covering their foreheads didn’t sit well with many critics as well as the general public who took to social media to express their opinions.
Can't even be mad because of how ridiculously ugly this is 😭😭😭 The LACE, the DOWN TO THE EYEBROW HAIRLINE, I CAN'T 😭😭😭😭
— Tantine P (@imanarchy_) January 18, 2020
The hairstylist Julien d’Ys has since apologized through an Instagram post. He wrote, “Dear all, my inspiration for the Comme des Garçons show was Egyptian prince. A Look I found truly beautiful and inspirational. A look that was an hommage. Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone, ever. If I did, I deeply apologize.”
This is not the first racial controversy that Comme des Garçons has found itself at the center of. The label has previously been called out for only working with white models for most of its existence and the fact that only in 2018 did they feature dark-skinned models. In February 2018, writer Martin Lerme of Heroine wrote an article titled “Why Won’t Comme des Garçons Hire Black Models?” in which he concluded: “After reviewing the 54 runway shows (excluding the as yet unavailable Fall 1991 season) on Vogue, which includes a total of 2,533 looks, I was only able to identify 5 black models—a total of 32 appearances comprising 1.26 percent of the total runway exits—over the entire covered time span.”