Like most fashion events, Couture Fashion Week in Paris, which is happening this week, is not without controversy. On Monday night, street style star Miroslava Duma uploaded an invitation to her Instagram Story from designer Ulyana Sergeenko for her show Tuesday. The blogger and co-founder of Buro 24/7 and The Tot shared the note, which read “To my [N Word] in Paris;” she added a heart emoji and tagged the designer.
It didn’t take long before the internet, including Diet Prada and Naomi Campbell, publicly called out the women (neither of whom are black). Sergeenko's Instagram account was soon filled with a variety of comments highlighting how problematic and shocking her use of the N word was. Wrote @ohnichole:“Sorry but with so many people getting press for similar issues there is no excuse to not be informed. These girls live on social media where stories like Galliano having his racist rant or recently HM have been well publicised for them to know better.” @briasoboojie commented: “History books exist. She’s a fashion designer so she understands references so it’s not like she doesn’t know the context. This is normal behaviour for European fashion designers and media. They are blatantly racist and try to hide behind this bullshit narrative that 'our country doesn’t approach racism like that."
Duma wasn’t exempt from criticism, either. @thelukeset commented under one of her photos, writing: “You and @ulyana_sergeenko_moscow should take responsibility and apologise for being racist. More than that, listen to what people who really struggle with racism everyday have to say, then reconsider the kind of things you post on your story, etc. I'm sure you both can do better. That is, if you want to.” Plus, this isn’t the first time Duma was called about for being racially insensitive. In 2014, she photographed Dasha Zhukova for a feature on her website, Buro 24/7, where the Russian socialite literally sat on top of a chair shaped like a Black woman. She would later apologise on Instagram.
On Tuesday, Sergeenko also posted an apology on Instagram: “I woke up this morning with my phone full of insulting messages ‘you deserve the worst in your life,” die white trash”…and so on. I was born on a small town in East Kazakhstan, my daughter is half Armenian, I have never divided people white or black. Kanye West is one of my favourite musicians, and NP is one of my most favourite songs. And yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it. I am deeply sorry to everyone whom I might have offended. Mira is a dear friend and even the fact that she so naively posted my private card to her on her social means that we meant nothing wrong and didn't realise the consequences. I have certainly learned my lesson and I am grateful for it. There is enough anger in the world out there, please, can we stop it here?"
Not exactly an apology. The Instagram post has since been deleted. During the designer's presentation later that, when a Garage journalist asked her what had gone on that morning, "“I’m so upset that I spoiled it,” she said of her show." Clearly, the designer's priorities are not with apologising, or seeing the fault in her actions, but rather the impact the event had on her collection.
We have reached out to both Sergeenko and Duma for comment, and will update this article if/when we hear back.