Fashion brand under fire for cultural appropriation with cornrow wigs

Fashion house accused of cultural appropriation over wigs used in men’s show

The fashion house Comme des Garçons has been accused of cultural appropriation after white models wore wigs of what appeared to be traditional black people’s hairstyles during its men’s autumn/winter 2020 show.

In a post on Instagram, the industry watchdog Diet Prada said the label had put “white models in cornrow wigs”.

Social media users expressed concern, with Aja Barber commenting: “Too busy laughing to be offended. This is a mess.” The model Adwoa Aboah commented: “Are we surprised?”

Three black models also took part in the show, with one wearing the wigs. The other two wore their hair naturally.

The hairstylist Julien D’ys, who styled the wigs for the collection, shared a sketch on his Instagram page that seemed to indicate the wigs were intended to reference Egyptian pharaoh hair and not cornrows, with some users asking why Egyptian models were not used for the show.

In a later post, Days said he found the “Egyptian prince” look “truly beautiful and inspirational”. He added: “Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone ever … if I did I deeply apologise.” He got supportive messages from Daphne Guinness, Carine Roitfeld and Steven Klein.

it is not the first time fashion has courted controversy for hair appropriation; in 2015, Valentino used cornrows on its models.

The latest row follows a series of race-related controversies to have hit the fashion industry, including Gucci’s blackface jumper and turban and a Dolce & Gabbana advert featuring a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza and spaghetti with chopsticks that were accused of cultural insensitivity and racism.

Meanwhile, on Sunday night, there was a protest by members of the French union CGT outside the Mobilier National, which is used to stock furniture for members of the cabinet, where a Hermès show was taking place.

Criticising governmental changes to workers’ pensions, the protesters waved red flags, sang protest songs and at one point threw eggs at arriving guests.

“We have nothing against Hermès but we will defend this organisation from an outrage,” said one of the demonstrators who was handing out leaflets.

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