A New York fashion college has apologised after it made models wear “racist” accessories on the catwalk.
The Fitness Institute of Technology (FIT) said in a statement on Thursday that the “intent” of the collection was not to “make a statement about race”.
But, it added “it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome”.
The accessories included large prosthetic monkey ears, lips and bushy eyebrows, and were part of a FIT student collection showcased during a runway show in Manhattan earlier this month.
One model refused to wear the pieces – which have been compared to blackface – saying they were “clearly racist”.
Speaking to the New York Post, African American model Amy Lefevre said she felt “incredibly uncomfortable” being made to wear the accessories, but was told “it was fine to feel uncomfortable for only 45 seconds”.
She eventually walked the runway without the pieces, and is said to have left the event immediately thereafter.
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“I was literally shaking,” the 25-year-old said. “I could not control my emotions. My whole body was shaking. I have never felt like that in my life.”
She added: “People of colour are struggling too much in 2020 for the promoters not to have vetted and cleared accessories for the shows.”
In a statement, FIT president Joyce F Brown apologised “to anybody who has been offended by what they saw”.
She added: “Let me be clear: no person should be made to feel uncomfortable – particularly about race-in service of their work, job, livelihood, or course of study.
“Right now, we are actively investigating how this happened…
“It is my position that all students must be afforded the safe space and freedom to learn and develop their voice, even if the voice is provocative to some.
“At the same time, I am deeply committed to creating a teaching and learning environment in which people are not offended or intimidated.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Kyle Farmer, the chairman of modern fine arts fashion design at FIT, said he wanted to “deeply apologise for any harm and pain I’ve caused”, in a post to Instagram.
He said: “It was never our intent for the show’s styling to be interpreted as racist or to make people feel uncomfortable but I now fully understand why this has happened.
“I take full responsibility and am committed to learning from this situation and taking steps to do better.
“Again, I apologise.”