The fashion industry is no stranger to controversies. And as 2017 proved, there’s never a dull moment in this world.
Just ask model Gigi Hadid, who found herself in hot water thanks to a video that showed her mocking Asians, or Kendall Jenner, who despite her fairly short modeling career won the accolade of “Fashion Icon of the Decade.” (Jenner also faced controversy this year for her now-infamous Pepsi commercial. The incident didn’t make our list, as it wasn’t technically a fashion controversy. But since it featured the model, it’s worth a mention.)
This year, fashion controversies also got political, with brands like Tiffany and Co. taking a stand against President Donald Trump. First lady Melania Trump also found herself in the middle of a Twitter storm when she wore sky-high stilettos to Texas following Hurricane Harvey.
Unsurprisingly, many of the moments also reinforce fashion’s rocky relationship with race and appropriation ― we’re talking to you, Vogue ― proving there’s still so much to be done to diversify the industry.
Scroll through to see our picks (in no particular order) for the most shocking and controversial fashion moments of the year.
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In December, two men accused renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber of sexual harassment. In response to the news, Vanity Fair canceled a party at Art Basel Miami that was meant to honor Weber. One of the photographer’s peers, former Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington, experienced backlash after she posted a picture of herself with Weber on social media.
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After being fired from British Vogue, where she worked for 35 years, former Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers dragged the magazine industry in a scathing essay for Vestoj. Chambers’ brutally honest piece was the buzz of Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. It caused such a kerfuffle it was briefly removed from web.
Karlie Kloss and Vogue sparked controversy back in February thanks to a particularly offensive photo spread featuring the model, who is white, dressed as a geisha. Ironically, as The Cut pointed out, the theme of the March 2017 issue was “diversity.” Kloss and Vogue faced backlash over the editorial, leading the model to respond with a statement on Twitter. Kloss wrote, “These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive.” Will Vogue ever learn?
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In August, Melania Trump had Twitter users buzzing after she touched down in Texas following Hurricane Harvey wearing a pair of sky-high stilettos. One user called FLOTUS’ choice of footwear “out of touch.” Even shoe designer Manolo Blahnik shared his thoughts on the situation.
Back in October, Bella Hadid appeared in a video for Complex in which she tried to convince us all she was hip with the sneaker heads of the world. Instead, she was roasted on Twitter for the cringeworthy interview, and it was largely thanks to this line: “If homeboy is coming through with these, it’s quiet for him … but if he comes through in like, these … homeboy is gonna, like, get it.”
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Yikes. In a backstage peek from this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a few of the models were caught on video singing a racial slur. The video clip quickly went viral, sparking outrage online.
Teen Vogue announced in November it would cease operations of its print magazine after more than a decade. Rumors about the magazine’s demise had circulated in the past, but the publication gained some serious credibility in recent years (thanks especially to its political coverage), making the news that much more shocking. Teen Vogue will continue to exist online, though, so it wasn’t all bad news.
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Daily Front Row named Kendall Jenner its “Fashion Icon of the Decade” in August, leaving plenty of people unimpressed. Jenner, who was 11 a decade ago, may have been modeling for the better half of the past decade, but she only rose to prominence in the high fashion space a few years ago. Naturally, folks on Twitter weren’t having it, with one user calling the whole situation insulting, and others questioning the choice altogether.
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Gigi Hadid sparked controversy this year after her sister shared a clip online showing the model mocking Asian people. In the video, Hadid laughs and squints her eyes while holding a cookie that looks like a samurai or Buddha. A few months after the video went viral, Hadid announced she was heading to China for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In response, some protested her presence in the country, citing the offensive video. The model ultimately apologized for the clip and didn’t appear in the VS show, leaving some to wonder whether her actions in the video were to blame.
Madewell sparked a fierce debate online in November when photos of a black model with her hair worn naturally appeared on the brand’s website. Some folks on Twitter called out the brand, claiming the stylists on set didn’t know how to properly style the model’s hair, while others pointed out that the “messy look” is a Madewell signature. The model, Marihenny Pasible, and J.Crew (which owns Madewell) addressed the controversy.
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In response to the massive Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal that rocked Hollywood this year, fashion designer Donna Karan suggested the alleged victims may have been “asking for it.” The backlash was swift, with people calling out the designer for her tone-deaf and offensive remarks. Actress Rose McGowan even spoke out against Karan, calling her “scum in a fancy dress.”
Following the backlash, Karan issued an apology for her remarks, saying, “Those words do not represent who I am, what I believe or what I have represented throughout my career.”
She apologized again in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.
Young power then-couple Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik appeared on the cover of Vogue’s August issue, with the magazine claiming the two are part of a new generation “embracing gender fluidity.” In Vogue terms, that meant Hadid and Malik shop each other’s closets and wear clothes regardless of the gender they’re targeted to. Of course, gender fluidity is about more than just swapping clothes, as HuffPost writer James Michael Nichols thoughtfully explained here.
Tiffany and Co. spoke out against Donald Trump’s desire to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. In a statement on Instagram, the jewelry brand urged POTUS to change his mind and keep the country in the pact.
“The disaster of climate change is too real, and the threat to our planet and to our children is too great,” the brand wrote.
Many supported the company’s move, while some conservative consumers vowed to boycott the brand.
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Fashion designer Tory Burch came under fire this year when her label released a painfully rhythmless video ad featuring white models dancing to “Juju on that Beat” by Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall. Burch said the ad was meant to be playful and chic, but folks online were quick to call her out for cultural appropriation and urged her to include a diverse cast in future projects. Burch eventually pulled the ad from the company’s website and apologized for it, saying, “I personally feel badly if this hurt anyone, and I’m truly sorry.”