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This past year has been one for the fashion history books, from sustainability and inclusivity taking a bigger role to record-breaking sales of fanny packs (seriously!). But 2018 was also rife with drama — and not of the drop-dead-gorgeous red carpet variety. Some designers and major industry players were slapped with lawsuits, drawn into the #MeToo movement, and accused of being insensitive and racist.
From Dolce & Gabbana’s runway disaster in Shanghai to the massive fallout from photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, here are 10 of the most controversial fashion moments of 2018 — in no particular order.
Before sliding into 2019, Yahoo Lifestyle takes a quick look back at some of the year’s biggest stories, and what’s happened since, with Rewind 2018.
Dolce & Gabbana’s runway fiasco
Dolce & Gabbana had plans to honor their Chinese customers with “The Great Show,” a runway spectacular planned to take place in Shanghai on Nov. 21. But the fashionable affair got off to a troubled start after the brand released three promotional videos featuring a female model attempting to eat traditional Italian food — including pizza and a large cannoli — with chopsticks. Each of the 40-second clips was rife with racist and sexist undertones, even featuring a male narrator who appeared to be mocking Chinese culture. To make matters worse, Stefano Gabbana, one half of the Italian design duo, was caught defending the video on Instagram with even more racist and derogatory statements, all of which was discovered and shared by industry watchdog @Diet_Prada.
Dolce & Gabbana’s official account and Gabbana’s personal account both issued apologies on the night of the event, in which both claimed that the offensive messages were a result of hacking. “We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China,” the official apology said.
But the damage was already done: Models began pulling out of the show, celebrities announced their intentions to boycott the brand, and the whole fiasco became a trending topic on China’s Twitter-esque social media site, Weibo. Just hours before the show was supposed to go on, Dolce & Gabbana announced that they would be canceling the event for good. The backlash didn’t end there: Retailers including Lane Crawford, Alibaba and JD.com decided to stop selling products from the brand.
Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show falls out of fashion
In the lead-up to the taping of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November, the sultry lingerie brand was already under fire for its lack of inclusivity in terms of casting and its product offerings. With plus-size and curve models appearing on runways across New York, London, Milan and Paris, plus plenty of high-fashion brands expanding their size offerings, why wasn’t VS following suit? And why wasn’t it celebrating all types of bodies, rather than offering a standing ovation for the slim and hyper-fit physiques of its coven of approved models?
This is a question that Vogue’s Nicole Phelps posed to the chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, and the executive vice president of public relations at VS, Monica Mitro, in an interview. The executive’s answers caused even more of an uproar.
“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” Razek said. He also offered up a handful of dismissive comments regarding the #MeToo movement and various Victoria’s Secret competitors.
Amid reports that sales at Victoria’s Secret were slipping and that the brand was losing market share to competitors — plus the increasing outrage after the recent fashion show — the brand’s CEO, Jan Singer, resigned. Even that departure was criticized, as her exit appeared to show that a female executive was taking the flak for unsavory comments made by her male colleague.
The debacle continued to play out in opinion pieces splashed across the internet, each with a more insulting headline, from the New York Times’ “Victoria’s Secret? In 2018, Fewer Women Want to Hear It” to the Washington Post’s “The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is too boring to even argue about.”
Melania Trump’s “I really don’t care” jacket
First lady Melania Trump is usually poised and polished for official visits, often selecting outfits from top designers such as Ralph Lauren and Valentino that cost upwards of four figures. So when she set off to visit migrant children who were being held at the Texas-Mexico border on June 21, her $39 Zara jacket made headlines. And not just for its affordable price tag.
Her strategic sartorial choice became clear when the first lady boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The back of her army-green jacket clearly read: “I really don’t care, do u?” It was a bizarre and icy message to convey while visiting children who were being detained separately from their parents due to President Trump’s zero-tolerance stance on immigration.
In a statement, the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, tried to minimize the outcry, saying, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.” President Trump negated that by issuing his own statement on the uproar, tweeting, “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”
Months later, in October 2018, the first lady explained her jacket choice to ABC’s Tom Llamas. “It’s obvious I didn’t wear the jacket for the children,” she said. “I wore the jacket to go on the plane and off the plane. And it was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.”
Hedi Slimane removed the Céline accent (and so much more)
When Hedi Slimane was appointed as creative director at Céline in January 2018, avid fans of the brand braced for massive change. After all, that’s exactly what the boundary-pushing designer did when he removed the “Yves” from “Yves Saint Laurent” back in June 2012.
So it came as little surprise in September 2018 when Céline became just Celine. That’s right, Slimane disposed of the accent aigu (acute accent) that had been hovering above the first e since 1945, when Céline Vipiana and her husband Richard founded the label.
According to the brand, the removal of the accent allowed for “a simplified and more balanced proportion, evoking the Celine collections of the 1960s where the accent wasn’t used often.” Celine explained this all in an Instagram post on its account that had been wiped clean of all images from Phoebe Philo’s decade-long tenure.
Slimane also tweaked the typography and spacing between the letters of the Celine logo, though that didn’t ruffle feathers quite as much as the loss of the accent. And it surely didn’t compare to the reaction to Slimane’s debut collection at Celine, which was ill-received by both lifelong fans and critics — but has been anticipated to be a big hit in terms of sales.
French Open bans Serena Williams’s catsuit
Along with being recognized as the most talented athlete in the world, Serena Williams is also known for her keen fashion taste both on and off the court. But that doesn’t mean the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner is immune to tennis’s notoriously strict rules.
At the French Open in August 2018, Williams stepped out to play in a sleek black catsuit that was designed specifically for her by Nike. The black one-piece served to help with her circulation, as the new mother has a history of suffering from blood clots, particularly following the birth of her daughter, Olympia, in September 2017.
Regardless, her catsuit prompted French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli to claim that a new dress code would be implemented next year. “I think we sometimes went too far. The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place,” he told Tennis magazine in an interview. The controlling decision drew ire on social media, with former tennis stars including Billie Jean King, Andy Roddick and Chris Evert weighing in on the statement.
Williams, meanwhile, seemed to be unfazed by the whole thing. “I think that obviously the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do,” she said after the announcement, adding that she and her team have a great relationship with Giudicelli.
Fallout from charges against photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber
A detailed exposé was published in the New York Times on Jan. 13 calling out the sexual misconduct of esteemed photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. The accusations were made by a series of models and assistants who worked with or alongside the lensmen for various campaigns and magazine shoots.
In total, 13 individuals recounted unwanted sexual advances from Testino, dating back to the ’90s. Fifteen models told the newspaper about breathing exercises that Weber frequently practiced, during which he instructed the individuals to touch themselves inappropriately, sometimes moving their hands with his own.
Both photographers vehemently denied the accusations but faced swift consequences regardless. Condé Nast announced that it would be cutting ties with both Testino and Weber “for the foreseeable future,” right after the Times’ story broke. Brands including Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, Burberry and Ralph Lauren also decided to sever their business relationships with the accused photographers. And the fallout continues: A sexual harassment suit against Weber is pending, while Testino’s creative agency, Mariotestino+, shuttered this past March.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears a $3,500 outfit in Interview
In the world of glossy magazines, it’s not rare to see a public figure dressed in an eye-wateringly expensive outfit that was borrowed for the occasion. But when Interview published a photo of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. — who was a congressional candidate at the time — wearing a forest-green suit from Gabriela Hearst and black satin Manolo Blahnik pumps, the 29-year-old Democratic socialist found herself at the center of a bizarre controversy.
The highly contentious shoot was accompanied by an interview in which Kerry Washington and the rising political star discussed topics including income inequality and the working class. At one point, Ocasio-Cortez even addressed her “haters,” saying, “For me, it’s really important to know whose opinions you value, because nine times out of 10, the people who are critiquing you are people who are never going to be in your camp.”
So why did the price of a borrowed outfit outshine the importance of this conversation?
It seems the critics who took to social media to complain about Ocasio-Cortez’s “hypocritical” suit were seemingly unaware that the clothing and accessories featured in magazine shoots are often lent to the publication — meaning the subject hardly ever purchases the items he or she is wearing in the glossy, posed images. This was a detail that Ocasio-Cortez confirmed in a tweet, where she noted that she did not keep the outfit and also promised that she would keep “slaying lewks.”
Designer Emilia Wickstead claimed Meghan Markle’s wedding dress was a knockoff
Almost the entire world was glued to their TV screens this past May when Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy gown to walk down the aisle with Prince Harry. But the pure white boat-neck wedding dress that was crafted by artistic director Clare Waight Keller wasn’t universally adored.
In fact, English designer Emilia Wickstead shared some choice words about the white frock with the Daily Mail. “‘Her dress is identical to one of our dresses. Apparently a lot of commentators were saying, ‘It’s an Emilia Wickstead dress,’” she was quoted saying. Wickstead went on to criticize the fit of Markle’s dress and the wispy hairdo she selected for her big day.
The Daily Mail then published another story on Wickstead after this drama became a hot topic on social media. The story claimed that Wickstead’s Twitter account was suspended — even though the designer’s publicist said that the designer hadn’t been active on the social media site in years.
A week after the original comments were published, Wickstead released a statement to the Cut, which read, “I am extremely saddened by commentary that has appeared in the press and on-line over the past few days. … I do not think that her wedding dress was a copy of any of our designs. I have the greatest respect for Clare Waight Keller and the House of Givenchy — a huge source of inspiration to me.”
The whole snafu must have been quickly forgotten by Kensington Palace because Markle ended up wearing a little black dress from Wickstead this past July, during her first official trip abroad with Prince Harry.
Burberry caught destroying $37.8 million worth of unsold merchandise
Burberry disclosed plenty of large figures in its annual report that was published in July 2018. But the $37.8 million worth of unsold products was what caught the public’s attention. Rather than offering the $13.76 million of cosmetics and $24 million of clothing and accessories at a discount, the brand simply set fire to its excess stock. But that’s not all: It turns out that Burberry has destroyed upwards of $116 million worth of products over the past five years.
This puzzling practice of destroying unsold merchandise has been adopted by a handful of designer brands that aim to maintain a certain air of exclusivity, thereby preventing their products from being offered at a discount. It is also said the practice allows them to limit the production of counterfeit items and protect the intellectual property of designs that are still in the midst of production. Along with Burberry, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and H&M are all known to burn their own unsold stock.
In response to being caught red-handed, Burberry claimed that its burning practices are environmentally friendly because it is able to harness the energy expelled by its carefully calculated fires. The brand also noted that it tries to create as little surplus merchandise as possible, but it didn’t announce any plans to put out its fires anytime soon.
H&M ad sparks claims of racism
Swedish label H&M started off the year on a sour note when it posted an image of a young black child modeling a sweatshirt that read “Coolest monkey in the jungle” across the chest. The design was met with widespread outrage across social media and caused a handful of celebrities to sever business relationships with the brand, including the Weeknd and G-Eazy.
H&M issued a public apology on Jan. 9, just days after the outrage began, which it posted at the top of its webpage for all of its customers to see. “We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print,” the company said in a statement. “Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally.”
The brand also hired a diversity leader in order to increase awareness around blatant insensitivities and in an attempt to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. However, H&M still had to close select stores in South Africa just four days after its public apology, as angry mobs swarmed the shops in protest.
As for the unsold sweatshirts? Those were reportedly “recycled” by the H&M team.
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