photo: Getty

Comme des Garçons is a Japanese fashion brand known for its high conceptualism. Rei Kawakubo, the brand's designer, has sent models down the runway wearing carpet remnants, anime characters, and 2-D flat clothing. CdG's has many devoted fans‚ including Rihanna, whose floral Met Gala look is as iconic as Kawakubo herself. 

So when Comme des Garçons made a rare misstep, woke fashion fans rightfully took them to task. This weekend, CdG sent white male models down the runway wearing braids — backlash ensued, and the company has apologized. Here's the full story.

As you can see, models were sent down the runway like this. *claps palm to forehead*

Yes, in the year our Lord 2020, this is still happening. For its fall 2020 collection, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus (the brand's menswear label) sent white models down the runway wearing these wigs, designed to look like cascading braids. It's a stunningly tone-deaf display of cultural appropriation‚ given that the look was reportedly inspired by ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

It was a deliberate styling choice.

The lace-front wigs were given to all of the white-passing and Asian models. Some models' braids were blond, black and blond, or black. Of the seven black models in the show, two were styled with the wig. The rest wore their natural braids, adding insult to injury. Clearly, this isn't great.

Condemnation was swift and furious.

Comme des Garçons was swiftly called out when the images hit the wire. This Twitter user noted how "miserable" this model looks as he's forced to wear this wig. For Teen Vogue, Gianluca Russo wrote, "The fashion industry has failed Black people time and time again, routinely appropriating and capitalizing off of Black culture, including the use of traditionally black hairstyles on non-Black models."

The hairstylist issued an "apology."

"Dear all, My inspiration for the comme des garçons show was Egyptian prince A Look i found truly beautiful and inspirational. A look that was an hommage," wrote stylist Julien d'Ys. "Never was it my intention to hurt or offend anyone, ever. If I did I deeply apologize."

In other words, "osrry if I offended you." An apology that isn't actually an apology.

The brand itself was more contrite.

"The inspiration for the headpieces for Comme des Garçons menswear FW’20 show was the look of an Egyptian prince. It was never ever our intention to disrespect or hurt anyone –– we deeply and sincerely apologise for any offense it has caused," Comme des Garcçons told Dazed UK.

Comme des Garçons occupies a unique space in fashion.

CdG isn't just a beloved fashion brand — it has almost mythic status. Kawakubo was given her own solo retrospective show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, exhibiting her cerebral runway creations that challenge our notions of clothing, gender, practicality, and art. 

Given CdG's deeply respected place in the fashion world, it's all the more disappointing that the brand made this styling decision. Hopefully, Kawakubo — and other fashion houses — will learn from this.