As much as we enjoy reporting on the many strides being made in racial diversity in fashion, we're not naive enough to believe there aren't still deep-rooted issues of racism and discrimination rotting in all branches of the industry. Every now and then, something pops up to remind us all that there's still much work to be done.
Today's awful example comes courtesy of a now-deleted Instagram story from Russian street style star-turned-entrepreneur Miroslava Duma. Russian couture designer Ulyana Sergeenko sent Duma — and, based on the use of the plural, it's probably safe to assume there are others — a bouquet of flowers with the note, "To my n*ggas in Paris." Perhaps Duma posted this to her Instagram story because she found it charming or funny instead of a tasteless choice of slang between two wealthy white women. Whatever the reason, Duma kicked off a social media firestorm of comments on her own page, as well as Sergeenko's, from people who didn't find the note so cute — and who remembered that Duma once featured an image of a white woman using a Black woman as a chair on her website.
To make matters worse, Sergeenko issued an "apology" of sorts to her Instagram which somehow manages to be a Bingo card of every unreasonable excuse for racism in the book: Her daughter is half-Armenian; she loves Kanye West; she and her friends "call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it [sic]," which is a new one; the "I'm sorry if you were offended" apology; we didn't mean to do something wrong; everyone is being mean to me and the world needs more love and can't we just all be positive?
To my fellow white people, for the last time: No, you cannot use the n-word. You cannot dress up in blackface or in yellowface. You cannot use people of other races as props in photo shoots. You cannot wear cornrows or dreadlocks or Bantu knots. I don't care if you're not American and you somehow think you're exempt from these conversations about race (which, what kind of logic is that???); your culture is no longer an excuse. It is 2018. You have been told. And if you mess up, and someone calls you out on it, a simple, "I'm sorry. I will learn and I will do better," is the correct response.
If any of that seems somehow unfair, perhaps its time to take a step back and reflect on the dozens of privileges granted to you from birth simply because of the color of your skin and rethink your next social media caption or attempt to be edgy with your friends. In the meantime, fashion industry, let's do better.
UPDATE, Tues., Jan. 23, 2018, 1:30 p.m.: Miroslava Duma has posted an apology to her own Instagram page. Read it in full below:
UPDATE, Tues. Jan. 23, 2018, 5:26 p.m.: The Tot has removed Duma from its board effective immediately and issued the following statement via Instagram:
UPDATE, Weds. Jan. 24, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Miroslava Duma has issued another apology, this time specifically regarding a video that surfaced of her speaking out against the trans community and fellow influencer Bryanboy.
UPDATE, Fri. Jan. 26, 2018, 12:30 p.m.: Designer Ulyana Sergeenko has issued a new apology of her own, which can be read in full below: