Fashion Designer Sends Models Down the Runway in Blackface That Sparkles

He didn’t think it would offend anybody.
A model walks the runway in the Claudio Cutugno show during Milan Fashion Week. (Photo: Andrea Rentz/Getty Images)
Mar 1, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

All that glitters is not OK. Case in point: blackface, which one Italian designer thought would complete his black-themed presentation at Milan Fashion Week.

Claudio Cutugno came under fire for sending models down the runway with their faces painted black and topped with a layer of glitter. The backlash ensued the same week that Fashion Police’s Giuliana Rancic made an insensitive remark about actor Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks.

In a statement to E! News, Cutugno explained that the makeup was inspired by the Italian artist and poet Emilio Isgrò, who blacked out parts of texts to create messages in his works.

“[In] ancient Greek, the meaning of the words that were underlined was related to the tradition of wearing black veils around the heads when women needed to say goodbye to their husbands,” said Cutugno. “This also today is a tradition which in Sicily is used when women go to burials. So the black makeup we decided to use was actually a translation of the black veil.”

Blackface—theatrical makeup popular in the 1800s that proliferated stereotypes of African Americans—is an all too common faux pas in the fashion industry. Repeat offenders include international editions of Vogue and fashion magazine editors. But it happens elsewhere as well, especially in Hollywood. While blackface was more common in previous decades, films released recently have also featured actors in the makeup. In Thailand, Dunkin’ Donuts used a model in blackface to promote its Charcoal Donut.

Cutugno apologized to those he offended, saying that it “had nothing to do with Afro-American culture. I would have never thought someone could have [found] the makeup offensive, otherwise I would have never used it.”