The 8 most controversial fashion moments of 2020, so far

Melchi Anyinsah-Bondzie
Comme des Garçons 2020
Comme des Garçons' use of cornrow wigs faced criticism. Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images
  • Since 2020 began, several of fashion's biggest brands and notable names have been going viral for less-than-favorable reasons.

  • For example, a graduate runway show at the Fashion Institute of Technology sparked yet another discussion around racism in fashion.

  • Cultural appropriation was also a big problem this year as designers like Comme des Garçons were criticized for having models wear cornrow wigs.

  • Insider rounded up eight of the most controversial fashion moments of 2020, so far.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

2020 has been, for lack of a better word, an interesting year. But fashion waits for no one, and despite many aspects of life coming to a standstill, this year has also seen plenty of innovative and gorgeous fashion shows, from Moschino to Jean-Paul Gaultier

London Fashion Week went digital and gender-neutral for the first time in its nearly 40-year history in June, and we've also seen some wacky and wonderful trends make a comeback.

However, it's not all silk and lace. Fashion has proved countless times that it can be equally controversial.

This year has seen some truly wild moments, too. From Louis Vuitton's Virgil Abloh being criticized for appearing to make a $50 donation to a Black Lives Matter bail fund, to Kanye West naming a pair of "Yeezy" sneakers after Islamic archangels, the industry has faced controversies that not even a pandemic could stop.

Here are some of the most controversial fashion moments of 2020, so far.

Netflix's "Next in Fashion" streetwear episode in January ended with Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean-Raymond walking off set.

Kerby Jean-Raymond walking offset
The Pyer Moss founder said he was "really mad" as he walked off set in the episode that aired in January. Netflix

American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond walked off set following a disagreement during episode four of the Netflix series "Next In Fashion," which aired in January.

The show was presented and judged by Alexa Chung and Tan France along with a guest judge each week, with 18 designers from all over the world competing for a grand prize of $250,000 and a debut collection on Net-a-Porter.

This episode's theme was streetwear, and the pair that found themselves at the bottom was Farai Simoyi-Agbede and Kianga 'Kiki' Milele.

The pair presented two looks that consisted of hoodies and baggy fits in purple and stone colors. Jean-Raymond was noticeably impressed, though as the judges huddled together to deliberate, the decision was split.

Expressing that he didn't want to send the pair home, Jean-Raymond said: "Yeah, I need to leave the room. I'm not happy about this. I'm really mad," and then walked off set, leaving everyone in shock.

While Jean-Raymond didn't express why he walked off, however, it was clear that judges were leaning towards the pair as this was their third time at the bottom.

The judges usually reach a unanimous decision each episode, but with the judges in disagreement, no-one was eliminated, leaving Milele and Simoyi-Agbede to fight another week. The pair were eliminated in the "Underwear" round a week later.

Representatives for Jean-Raymond did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Comme des Garçons' Fall/Winter 2020 show included white models wearing cornrow wigs that sparked a cultural appropriation debate.

Comme des Garçons F/W 2020
The show's hairstylist Julien D'ys said he was inspired by an Egyptian prince who he found "truly beautiful and inspirational." Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Contributor/Getty Images

Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons was accused of cultural appropriation when it featured white models wearing cornrow wigs on its runway in January.

Fashion Instagram account Diet Prada posted a photo from the brand's Fall/Winter 2020 show with the caption: "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."

LA-based model Jeana Turner commented: "Hire Black models if you want to share the culture that's apparently influencing your brand so much," while British model Adwoa Aboah wrote: "Are we surprised?"

In a statement previously sent to Insider via email, a representative of Comme des Garçons said: "The inspiration for the headpieces for Comme des Garcons 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 apologize for any offense it has caused."

The runway's hairstylist Julien D'ys also took to Instagram to apologize, crediting his inspiration to a drawing of an Egyptian prince who he found "truly beautiful and inspirational."

Representatives for Comme des Garçons did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The FIT fashion show in February featured models with oversized lips and "monkey" ears. One model refused to wear them, saying the accessories were "clearly racist."

FIT Fashion Show - "monkey accessories"
25-year-old model Amy Lefevre who is Black told the New York Times that she felt "incredibly uncomfortable" and refused to wear the accessories. Bennett Raglin/Stringer/Getty Images

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) hosted a catwalk show for designers of its first MFA Fashion Design class on February 7, which resulted in an internal investigation and the suspension of two administrators.

The New York Times reported Junkai Huang, 27, who recently graduated from FIT, had been unable to find any accessories to complement his designs when administrators suggested items including a pair of oversized lips and "monkey" ears which cost $10 apiece.

When 25-year-old model Amy Lefevre was presented with the accessories, she said: "I let the staff know that I did not want to wear these pieces as they were clearly racist and made me incredibly uncomfortable."

According to the report, Huang was happy to let Lefevre walk without the accessories but the director of the show, Richard Thornn, had "yelled at student designers to move away" and pressured her to wear them.

The school's president Dr. Joyce Brown, who is African-American, released a statement stating that "the styling and accessorizing used in the show were provided to him rather than chosen at his discretion."

Huang, who is originally from Qingdao, Eastern China, and has lived in New York City since 2017, said that he was "sad and shocked."

"I have only lived in the United States briefly," he told The New York Times. "My understanding of American cultural references is still developing. In the future, I'll be more aware about political correctness, cultural differences, and history."

Representatives for FIT did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Philipp Plein's tribute to Kobe in a February runway show included two golden helicopters, which many called "tacky" and "distasteful.'

Plein FW2020
A golden helicopter can be seen in the background as Philipp Plein poses with models wearing his latest collection, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Pietro S. D'Aprano/Stringer/Getty Images

German designer Philipp Plein left many with a bad taste in their mouths after his Fall/Winter 2020 runway show, which he dedicated to the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and used two golden helicopters.

The show itself featured models wearing NBA-inspired clothing bedazzled in Swarovski crystals in purple and gold — a clear nod to Bryant's jersey. Models included Jada Pinkett-Smith and rapper Tyga.

Plein debuted his latest collection during Milan Fashion Week which took place in February, just 27 days after Bryant's death.

One person tweeted that the collection was "distasteful, tacky & material waste," adding that "it's disgusting."

Plein issued a statement to The Independent saying that the catwalk set-up had already been planned and designed in November 2019. 

"This is the reason why there were gilded helicopters on the runway. I would have clearly removed them if possible, but it was too late to replace them," he told the publication.

He also stated that the proceeds from the collection, named Plein 24, would be donated to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation set up in honor of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Representatives for Philipp Plein did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

In February, Giorgio Armani compared the treatment of women in fashion to rape and was criticized for using the word lightly and multiple times.

Giorgio Armani 2020
Giorgio Armani after his Fall/Winter 2020 Emporio Armani's collection presentation during Milan Fashion Week. Andreas Solaro/Contributor/Getty Images

In February, the Italian designer was criticized for his comments that likened the treatment of women in fashion to rape.

"There is so much talk about women being raped, but women today are regularly 'raped' by designers," the 85-year-old said to the press while presenting his Emporio Armani line at Milan Fashion Week.

According to Women's Wear Daily (WWD), the designer told reporters that he felt that was at the point where he could "say what he wanted to."

"I am thinking of certain ads where women are shown in a provocative way, half-naked, and many women feel pressured into looking like that. That for me is rape. It's unbefitting. Look around, they think that by wearing black leggings and a bomber they become modern. Excuse my outburst and the strong words, but I felt like I had to say this," he said.

WWD's Executive Editor Booth Moore tweeted that the designer "used the word 'rape' lightly, several times, to talk about what he doesn't like about fashion."

In a statement to The Independent, Armani said that he could see why his comments would be taken "the wrong way."

"If I could turn back and have used another word to express that all of us designers have the duty to respect the women we design clothes for I would," he said.

He also expressed that he had been guilty of the very same issues he had expressed and that he was actively looking at ways to "not repeat the same mistake again."

Representatives for Emporio Armani did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Louis Vuitton's Virgil Abloh was criticized for posting a photo of a $50 donation towards a bail fund for protestors in Miami in June. Some fans said it wasn't enough.

Virgil Abloh
The Chicago native became the Artistic Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in 2018. Dominique Charriau/Contributor/Getty Images

Louis Vuitton's artistic director of menswear Virgil Abloh faced criticism after posting a screenshot of what appeared to be a $50 donation to a Miami community bail fund for George Floyd protesters in June.

"For the kids that need a bail funds for George Floyd protests," he wrote in an Instagram story alongside the screenshot, adding that he was "matching the local energy."

The designer, who is also the head of Off-White, immediately came under fire with many on social media noting that $50 wouldn't come close to covering the cost of most products from either his brand or Louis Vuitton.

One user tweeted: "Someone mentioned that Virgil's donation wouldn't even cover a pair of his socks and ... uh ... not even when they're on sale."

Abloh responded to the comments in a Notes App apology posted to his Twitter, saying: "I will continue to donate more and will continue to use my voice to urge my peers to do the same."

He also received backlash after commenting on the looting of his friend's boutique. After Round Two Hollywood owner Sean Wotherspoon shared a clip of the damage to his store, Abloh posted a comment that read "this is f---ed up! You see the passion blood sweat and tears that Sean outs in for our culture. This disgusts me."

Both Wotherspoon and Abloh later clarified that the concern was not about themselves, but for wider change in the world.

Representatives for Louis Vuitton did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

In August, Kanye West was criticized after naming a new line of Yeezy sneakers after Islamic angels.

Kanye West
Kanye West released his first pair of Yeezy sneakers with Nike in 2009, later collaborating with Adidas in 2015. Neil Mockford/Contributor/Getty Images

Kanye West was accused of disrespecting the religion Islam by naming two new sneakers after religious archangels in August.

Adidas revealed the new sneakers, Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Israfil and Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Asriel, on Twitter. They share the name of angels who, according to the Qu'ran, announce the beginning of Judgement Day and the arrival of the "angel of death."

The news faced a considerable amount of backlash, with many on Twitter saying the sneakers were "highly disrespectful."

One user tweeted: "Adidas is disrespecting Islam. Israfil is one of the four angels in Islam. Shame on @adidasoriginals and @kanyewest." 

The sneakers retailed at $220 and sold out despite a petition being started calling for them to be renamed.

There has not been an official response to the controversy, and representatives for West and Adidas did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

In October, Rihanna was criticized for the use of an Islamic Hadith during her Savage X Fenty lingerie show.

Rihanna's Savage x Fenty Show
The fashion show itself was praised for being inclusive. Kevin Azur/Contributor/Getty Images

Rihanna came under fire in October after the second installment of her star-studded Savage X Fenty show.

The runway show, which aired on Amazon Prime, included a segment that saw dancers dressed in lingerie from the collection dancing to the 2016 track "Doom" by London-based French producer Coucou Chloe, which samples an Islamic Hadith. 

The Hadith is a collection of traditions and sayings from the Prophet Muhammed which serves as a source for moral guidance and religious law for Muslims.

Many Muslims took to social media to express their concerns and disappointment with the use of the track. 

Coucou Chloe took to Instagram and Twitter to "deeply apologize," saying: "The song was created using samples from Baile Funk tracks I found online. At the time, I was not aware that these samples used text from an Islamic Hadith."

She added that she was "in the process of having the song urgently removed from all streaming platforms."

Rihanna also shared an apology to her Instagram story which said she was "disheartened" by the "honest, yet careless mistake."

The 32-year-old singer turned designer and makeup mogul has been praised for her inclusiveness in the past. Her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, introduced a 40-shade foundation range and her Savage X Fenty lingerie collection has been seen as a celebration of all body types.

Representatives for Savage X Fenty did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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