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Fashion Institute of Technology issues apology for 'racist' accessories featured in its inaugural Master of Fine Arts runway show

The Fashion Institute of Technology Ajay Suresh

An African American model at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) runway show says she was pressured to wear racist accessories like “monkey ears” and oversized lips. The show, held at Manhattan's Pier 59 Studios on 7 February during New York Fashion Week, was designed to showcase the work of the ten fashion and design graduates from FIT’s inaugural Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme.

The accessories in question were designed by the graduate Junkai Huang and included large prosthetic red lips, black ears and stick-on bushy eyebrows. The dissenting model, Amy Lefevre, walked the runway but refused to wear the pieces.

“I was told that it was fine to feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds," Lefevre told the New York Post. “People of colour are struggling too much in 2020 for the promoters not to have vetted and cleared accessories for the shows.”

The show was directed by Jonathan Kyle Farmer, a FIT professor and chair of the new MFA Fashion Design, and produced by Richard Thornn, creative director of the British fashion production company NAMES LDN.

“Currently it does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories or the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race," says Joyce Brown, the president of the FIT, in a statement released today. "However, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome."