Posted on March 8, 2016

Paris Fashion Darling in Race Row for Only Using White Models

Agence France-Presse, March 7, 2016

Diversity campaigners Monday condemned the darling of Paris fashion week after he failed to cast a single model of colour in his two headline-grabbing shows.

Demna Gvasalia, who counts black music superstars Rihanna and Kanye West among his biggest fans, used only white models in shows for his own hip Vetements label and for Balenciaga Sunday, where he has just taken over as creative director.

The British-based Models for Diversity group slammed his choice as “appalling, unbelievable and bewildering”.

Its founder Angel Sinclair told AFP that the omission was all the more “shocking after the great strides at New York fashion week” and in other Paris shows–among the most diverse ever staged in the French capital.

“What was he thinking? I can’t believe that Kanye (West) could have anything to do with him,” she said.

Last month the rapper turned fashion designer–a regular front row guest at previous Vetements shows–threatened to poach Gvasalia, 34, from the Spanish label.

“I’m going to steal Demna from Balenciaga,” he tweeted.

Sinclair, a former model, said given that the Georgian-born designer had built his reputation on edgy streetwear inspired by black fashion culture, not using black models was “gross”.

“He is insulting all the black people who have been supporting him. He really needs to be educated,” she said.

Gvasalia, 34, who fled his war-torn homeland as a child for Germany, has said that he gets his inspiration from riding the metro through one of the most ethnically mixed parts of Paris.

But photographs of previous Vetements shows seen by AFP show his label only ever used a non-white model once on the catwalk, an Asian model for the 2015 autumn winter collection.

Balenciaga apologised Monday for any offence the show might have caused, but said “the ethnic origin of models did not enter into consideration in any way when casting models for the show.

“An unintended consequence was the lack of diversity . . . of the models who finally went on the runway. Balenciaga is committed to equal opportunity and to no discrimination of any kind (because of) shapes, sizes, races or ages,” it told AFP.