It’s 2013, and one would think that, by now, everyone would have gotten the memo that blackface is not appropriate, cute, or funny–and yet, every Halloween, it seems we have to remind people.
First, actress Julianne Hough attended a Halloween party Friday, October 25 dressed as the character Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black (including darkened skin). After a sharp public backlash to her choice of costume, Hough took to Twitter to apologize.
But it was a group of Italian fashion figures who really took things over the top. Industry insiders like Anna Dello Russo, Stefano Gabbana, and recently-named Rochas designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua attended a party over the weekend themed “Disco Africa”–which, of course, means loads of people showed up in blackface.
While some, like Dello Russo, just donned a lot of animal print, others were deeply offensive. Dell’Aqcua and a group of his friends wore minstrel makeup; as the Fashion Bomb Daily points out, “minstrel shows characterized blacks as lazy, superstitious, and buffoonish,” making it an especially antiquated and problematic costume. And most shockingly of all, a handful of guests darkened their skin and showed up wearing slave chains–which, in 2013, is downright disturbing.
It’s hard to say why the fashion industry continues to run into trouble with this issue. In April of this year, Vogue Netherlands ran a controversial editorial featuring models in blackface; just a couple of months before that, Numéro France was forced to apologize after making Ondria Hardin darker for its “African Queen” spread.
Considering that just last month, supermodels Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Bethann Hardison banded together to fight for diversity on the runways, this most recent display of racial insensitivity seems especially shameful.
Check out more pictures from the party:
As the organizers of the fashion party “Hallowood Disco Africa”, we would like to sincerely apologize that this private party offended so many people. It was never our intention to do so. We had named the party “Disco Africa” to reflect the growing influence of Africa in the design and fashion world, not only as a growing market but also as the source of creative ideas. In retrospect, we clearly failed to think through the possible negative consequences and interpretations that might have resulted and appeared in both traditional and social media. These interpretations are all the more upsetting because most people in the fashion industry, from which we come, have always taken a strong stand against social discrimination whether on sexual, religious or racial grounds. Creative talent is what counts, not a person’s social, racial, religious or sexual background. We’re so sorry that we failed to make our position clear and gave the impression of racism. We are now much wiser and will do our very best to clarify our position in the future.