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Another Fashion Week Brings Another Case Of Cultural Appropriation: This Designer Had White Models Wearing Cornrow Wigs

Fashion has a long history of pulling from and appropriating other cultures. Whether it’s in campaigns or on runways, brands and designers have made many missteps over the years —so although disappointing that this still happens in 2020, it’s not big news when each Fashion Week we hear of yet another instance of it. And this Paris Fashion Week was no exception. Japanese brand Comme Des Garcons has come under fire for sending white models wearing cornrow wigs down the runway.

Comme des Garçons has been called out for appropriating a typically black hairstyle.

People were quick to point out the cultural appropriation after the looks —which bore a close resemblance to hairstyles typically worn by black people— hit the runway, and worn by white models. Rather than every model wearing the wigs, a number of the black models who walked in the show sported their own hair.

Julien d’Ys, the hair stylist who has collaborated with designer Rei Kawakubo for many years, explained his influences on Instagram.

Citing Tutankhamen and Ancient Egypt, the hair stylist’s posts drew positive comments from fashion names including Marc Jacobs —another designer who’s also been accused of cultural appropriation after he sent models down the runway wearing dreads.

d’Ys initially chose to dismiss the criticism as “stupide.”

In a comment, in response to the mounting backlash, he posted an image of the boys featured in the show along with an apology. “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 (sic). Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone, ever. If I did, I deeply apologise.”

However, despite more than 2,000 likes for his post, many of the comments underneath were negative.

Devinpink67 said: “Looks appropriate on the handsome dark skin model, a joke on the others next to and behind it never looks right but stupidity ridiculous braids, cornrows, twist, bantu knots, afro puffs, afros, slicked baby hairs REPEAT ARE B-L-A-C-K CULTURAL RELATED.”

The wigs were part of the company’s men’s autumn and winter collection on show as part of Paris Fashion Week.

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Back in 2018, @commedesgarcons cast their first black models in over 20 years for their FW18 show, following critical comments from netizens who noticed they hadn’t featured a black model since 1994. Last night, the avant-garde Japanese label seemed to have taken a step back with their men’s show, this time putting white models in cornrow wigs. Some black models also sported the wigs, while some wore their own hair. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Vogue Runway called them “odd”, which is a curious statement in itself, considering the stigma and discrimination of natural hair and hairstyles that embrace cultural identity (braids, Bantu knots, twists and locs). It was only in 2015 that Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the Oscars made her look like she “smells like patchouli oil or weed”. Suffice it to say, CDG’s decision to appropriate the braided hairstyles for white models is indeed problematic. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On the positive side, more states are legislating to ban race-based hair discrimination, following New York and California’s decision in 2019. Dieters, what do you think about the wigs at Comme des Garçons? The look on the model’s faces say it all, don’t you think? • #commedesgarcons #culturalappropriation #pfw #pfwm #pfw20 #cornrows #wig #wigs #caucasity #commepocracy #reikawakubo #adrianjoffe #discrimination #hair #naturalhairstyles #locs #locstyles #blackhair #blackhairstyles #naturallycurly #protectivestyles #goodhair #model #malemodel #avantgarde #cdgconverse #cdgplay #cdg #vogue #dietprada

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Critics on social media called the styling for Friday’s show “offensive”. The infamous Instagram account diet_prada —who has become the unofficial fashion police, shared a post saying that “the avant-garde Japanese label seemed to have taken a step back with their men’s show, this time putting white models in cornrow wigs”.

Another comment under d’Ys’s post suggested: “In future, to avoid facing this heat again when taking inspiration from a culture that is not yours, PLEASE work closely with one from said culture to guide you in doing it properly.

instagram @juliendys

“Your intention might not have been to culturally appropriate Egyptian culture, however your lack of care or awareness in executing it is extremely reckless and hence why it is deemed as cultural appropriation. Education alone avoids these situations, so learn from this and keep it pushing.”

The brand sent an apology to Dazed magazine

“The inspiration for the headpieces for Comme des Garçons menswear FW’20 show was the look of an Egyptian prince. It was never ever our intention to disrespect or hurt anyone – we deeply and sincerely apologise for any offence it has caused.”

Designers often apologize in these situations after the backlash, but in the year 2020 these situations shouldn’t even happen in the first place. 

Despite the countless times brands have been called out for doing so —and the plethora of information available about how using these traditional black hairstyles on white models is appropriation, and why it matters so much— the issue still happens. 

This isn’t the first time Comme des Garcons has been called out for lack of diverse representation. 

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Back in 2018, @commedesgarcons cast their first black models in over 20 years for their FW18 show, following critical comments from netizens who noticed they hadn’t featured a black model since 1994. Last night, the avant-garde Japanese label seemed to have taken a step back with their men’s show, this time putting white models in cornrow wigs. Some black models also sported the wigs, while some wore their own hair. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Vogue Runway called them “odd”, which is a curious statement in itself, considering the stigma and discrimination of natural hair and hairstyles that embrace cultural identity (braids, Bantu knots, twists and locs). It was only in 2015 that Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya’s dreadlocks at the Oscars made her look like she “smells like patchouli oil or weed”. Suffice it to say, CDG’s decision to appropriate the braided hairstyles for white models is indeed problematic. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On the positive side, more states are legislating to ban race-based hair discrimination, following New York and California’s decision in 2019. Dieters, what do you think about the wigs at Comme des Garçons? The look on the model’s faces say it all, don’t you think? • #commedesgarcons #culturalappropriation #pfw #pfwm #pfw20 #cornrows #wig #wigs #caucasity #commepocracy #reikawakubo #adrianjoffe #discrimination #hair #naturalhairstyles #locs #locstyles #blackhair #blackhairstyles #naturallycurly #protectivestyles #goodhair #model #malemodel #avantgarde #cdgconverse #cdgplay #cdg #vogue #dietprada

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In 2018, the Japanese fashion house cast its first Black model in over 20 years. Yup, in 2018.

The last few years have seen many fashion giants accused of cultural appropriation and even racism after a series of high profile scandals. 

Gucci was embroiled in a blackface controversy last year, while Prada faced outrage over a set of racially insensitive figurines in 2018. As a result, many in the industry are taking steps to make their brands more inclusive and representative, with both Gucci and Prada hiring diversity panels in the hopes of avoiding past mistakes.

Comme des Garcons’s appropriation of traditional West African hairstyles contributes to a common trend in the fashion industry, where Black culture is used by non-Black creatives to add an “edge” to design.

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Family Finds Peace After Body Of Pregnant Latina Teenager Missing Since 1976 Is Identified

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Family Finds Peace After Body Of Pregnant Latina Teenager Missing Since 1976 Is Identified

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

In 2017, Congressional Black Caucus lawmakers approached then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey with a letter asking them to “devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly, or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.” Their letter noted that often times when children of color go missing, authorities often jump to the conclusion that they are runaways instead of potential victims of abduction.

Fortunately, despite the lack of attention towards finding and recovering victims of color, namely black and Latina girls, the family of Evelyn Colon is finding some peace.

Evelyn Colon was living in Jersey City, New Jersey when she went missing in 1976 at the age of fifteen.

At the time of her disappearance, Colon was living with her family of five and had become pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Luis Sierra.

“Back then, things were a little different,” Miriam Colon-Veltman, Evelyn’s niece explained in a recent interview with CNN. “It was a different culture, a different time, in the 70s. You get your girlfriend pregnant, you move out, and that’s how it is.”

According to Colon-Veltman Evelyn and her boyfriend moved into an apartment together. Colon’s mother would stay in touch with the two, checking in to make sure that they were okay until one day when she went to the apartment to visit. After knocking on the door she quickly realized no one was going to answer the door.

“She just left,” Colon-Veltman explained. “People around the neighborhood, they said, ‘Oh, they moved away.’ So that’s the story that we grew up learning.”

According to family members of Evelyn, they eventually received a letter from Sierra later. He explained that while things were fine, Evelyn didn’t want to be in contact with her family.

“They always felt she left with him to start her new life with him and she just wanted to stay away,” Evelyn’s nephew, Luis Colon Jr. explained before revealing that the family never heard from her again.

The family didn’t know that Evelyn was dead. Pennsylvania State Police found her body in 1976 but had not identified it until 45 years later.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the circumstanes of her death were brutal. Her dismembered body was discovered in three separate suitcases on the banks of the Lehigh River tossed beneath a bridge of Interstate 80 in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. The discovery happened on December 20, 1976.

At the time, Evelyn was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Her fetus, a girl, was removed from her body and discovered in one of the suitcases.

Colon was given the name “Beth Doe.” They did not know her name until this week.

In a statement to CNN, “Pennsylvania State Police said that it had both confirmed the identity of the remains as Evelyn Colon and her fetus, and arrested a suspect: Luis Sierra, Colon’s boyfriend.” According to CNN, Sierra, now 63, was arrested and “charged with one count of criminal homicide in Ozone Park, New York on March 31, where he is awaiting extradition, the statement said. No other details were released.”

Colon Jr. and Colon-Veltman, who are brother and sister, told CNN that Evelyn’s family never considered something terrible could have happened to their aunt.

The Colon’s been under the belief that Evelyn was taking care of her family throughout the years. Still, they worked hard to find her. Colon Jr. said that his father searched for her often. With the rise of Facebook, he hoped to find her. “I would see my grandmother, she would walk around Jersey City and look for her,” he explained. “‘Hey, did you see Evelyn?’ She would think she saw her and tell my other grandmother, ‘Hey, I think I saw Evelyn!’ She would say, ‘I don’t know why, I can’t find her.'”

“I was looking up these people on Facebook, and I went and messaged all these people,” Colon-Veltman told CNN. “I feel like an idiot now, doing that and (I might have been) scared I could’ve tipped somebody off, but even I was looking for her.”

Colon Jr.’s decision to submit his DNA to several genealogy sites and track down his aunt is what ultimately worked.

“About four years ago, I heard about the DNA stuff and I wanted to see hey, this would be an awesome tool if I could connect with family and specifically, connect with my cousin, because I knew she had a kid, or cousins, multiple children, or her,” he explained. “So I got the kits, purchased one for me, for my wife, ordered another one from another website because I felt the more sites I’m on, the more chance that something would come about from that.”

In March Colon Jr. got a match that put the entire puzzle together.

“I get notified that ‘Hey, your DNA was matched to a victim of a homicide,'” Colon Jr. explained. “So we got in touch and they asked me, ‘Do you know anyone in your family?’ and I immediately, once they reached out to me, I knew it was her.”

After 45 years, Pennsylvania State Police identified Beth Doe as Evelyn Colon.

“It was obvious, there was no other person in my family who was missing,” Colon Jr. said. “And that’s when the ball started rolling.”

Colon’s body was buried in White Haven, Pennsylvania, and the community has been tending to her grave ever since.

“We’re so thankful for that community, that Carbon County community, that they loved her, that they cared for her,” Colon-Veltman said. “They treated her like their own, these random people for all these years.”

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The Bryant Family Has Filed Trademarks For ‘Mamba, Mambacita’ Amidst Apparel Line Reports

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The Bryant Family Has Filed Trademarks For ‘Mamba, Mambacita’ Amidst Apparel Line Reports

Elsa / Gelsons

Since the tragic deaths of her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant, Vanessa Bryant has made her mission to secure and preserve their legacy an obvious one. From pursuing justice for theirs and the other victims of the helicopter crash that took their lives, to ensuring the creation of memorials in their name, Bryant has made a point of making sure none of the victims of the fateful crash are forgotten.

More recently, Vanessa Bryant has set out to protect the ‘Mamba’ brand.

According to a recent report, an attorney for Bryant filed a trademark application for ‘Mamba’ and ‘Mambacita’ in early March.

While there’s little known about what Bryant intends to do with the brand names, the report suggests that the current agenda is to use the trademark for merchandise such as shirts, hoodies, jackets, and pants.

Kobe’s estate has filed for several trademarks related to his brand including ‘Mamba Sports Academy,’ ‘Mambacita,’ ‘Lady Mambas,’ and ‘Lil Mambas.’ 

The association with Bryant and the “Mamba” concept goes back to his days on the court where he was affectionately known as the Black Mamba. Bryant gave himself the nickname after a period of struggle. In a 2015 documentary called Muse, Kobe explained that he created the alter ego of Black Mamba to cope with off-the-court struggles in 2003.

“I went from a person who was at the top of his game, had everything coming, to a year later, having absolutely no idea where life is going or if you are even going to be a part of life as we all know it,” Bryant explained in the documentary. “I had to separate myself… It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created The Black Mamba.”

The Mamba name carried into his retirement when he left the NBA after twenty years. At the time, Bryant set out to coach and mentor younger children interested in sports at the Mamba Sports Academy, a training facility that he opened in California. Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, was a member of the Mambas girl’s team.

When the Bryants’ daughter Gianna began to come into her own on the basketball court, she took on the nickname “Mambacita.” 

On a recent cover feature for People Magazine, Vanessa Bryant explained that she’s found motivation in her devastating loss.

During an interview for the magazine’s ‘Women Changing the World’ issue, Bryant revaled “This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward. Lying in bed crying isn’t going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again. But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that’s what I do.”

Bryant also recently reportedly took over Granity Studios, her husband’s multimedia company, and also relaunched Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation which is focused on “creating positive impact for underserved athletes and young women in sports” and “provides funding and sports programming for underserved athletes to enable participation in school and/or league sports that enrich socio-emotional and physical development.”

Speaking to People about her efforts, Bryant explained, “I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going. They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways.”

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