Comme Des Garçons, a Japanese fashion brand, is receiving backlash for putting cornrow wigs on white models at their menswear collection fashion show for Paris Fashion Week.

The social media criticism was intense, with many calling the look offensive and blatant cultural appropriation.

The hairstylist for Comme Des Garçons, Julien d’Ys, responded to the backlash on Instagram. He says the look was inspired by Egyptian princes and apologizes if he’s caused any offense.

Bad Decisions or Intentional Offense?

This begs the obvious question, if the inspiration is an Egyptian look, then why not use Egyptian models? The show did include some black models, but even one white model in those wigs is too many.

d’Ys claims the look was an “hommage.” If that’s true, the hommage is a trainwreck. The wigs look awful. The wigs themselves are plasticky and cheap-looking, and they’ve been applied to the heads of the models in a way that makes them look ridiculous. The headpieces are halfway down the model’s foreheads with clearly visible lace fronts. It’s like they didn’t even try to make them look good, indicating more of a mockery than an homage.

Some have accused the brand of “outrage marketing“, essentially being offensive on purpose to ensure the brand makes headlines. Others have just wondered what on earth the brand was thinking.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time the brand has come under fire for racist behavior. In 2018, writer Martin Lerma investigated Comme Des Garçons’ use of black models in their ‘Mainline’ women’s collection runway shows in the last decade.

Not only was I unable to identity any black models, but I couldn’t identify any models of color at all. What I did discern was a heavy preference for Eastern European women with especially white skin.

Martin Lerma for Heroine

The lack of black models, as well as the poorly thought out wigs, seem to indicate a troubling pattern with the brand and their creative choices.