From Melania's Jacket to Prada Blackface: The Biggest Fashion Controversies of 2018
From Marchesa's mysteries to Melania's confrontational jacket; Meghan's messy bun to absurd jeans: Here's a not-so-nostalgic look back at the year in fashion scandals and snafus.
Any fashion news can be controversial if you write long and passionately about it on Twitter.
That said, 2018 proved to be full of scandals, snafus, and setbacks in the industry. From Marchesa to Melania, the style world saw its fair share of moments that induced many “What?”-s and “Huh?”-s or made us wonder who could have possibly approved that?!??!
Let's take a look down a not-so-nostalgic road.
Denim Lost Its Damn Mind
We live in a post-$435 “muddy jeans” society, so it’s admittedly tough to be truly stunned by any insane denim trends that come our way. Still, 2018 delivered a barrage of disturbing jeans that seemed to hit the shelves with the force of a stadium t-shirt gun.
There were the 105-inch long “Extendo Pants” that cost $500 and promptly sold out, presumably because they delighted stilt performers everywhere. Then Versace dropped boots that resembled slouchy jeans and did the impossible—that is, made J. Lo look sort of awkward.
For those of us who want to wear our jeans inside-out, but are much too busy to take the time to turn the fabric ourselves, there were the Unravel “Reversed” pair that did all the hard work themselves.
Days of Rage at New York Fashion Week
True, the fight between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B that sent a red stiletto flying is more of a fashion-adjacent controversy than one caused by any sartorial disagreement. But the two rappers' long, complicated history of beef came to a stylish climax at NYFW Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party, presumably when Minaj made a snide passing comment about Cardi’s newborn.
There must have been something in the champagne during fashion week after-parties, as just a day later Kanye West kicked an Entertainment Tonight reporter out of the Ralph Lauren 50th anniversary gala for asking a question he didn’t like about wife Kim Kardashian. A reminder to schmoozing celebrities come February’s next round of runways: Fashion is fun! Be nice!
Talking Religion at The Met Gala
While many many found the vision of Pope Rihanna an answered prayer, others were less enthused with the Met Gala theme of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Some believed the papal cosplay was offensive to believers, while critics of the church said celebrating the institution ignored its history of abuse and cover-ups.
The Vatican declined to comment on the star-studded evening, telling The Daily Beast that the Met Gala “speaks for itself.” That said, NYC Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan condoned the night enough to make an appearance, showing up in a cassock similar to the one model Taylor Hill wore.
The Paris Couture Week N-Word Scandal
Too-cool French fashionistas traded in their selfie pout for expressions of abject horror after one Russian influencer named Miroslava Duma Instagrammed a note from her friend, designer Ulyana Sergeenko addressed “To my n----rs in Paris.”
The quote was from a 2010 Kanye West and Jay-Z collab, but the damage was done, and both women were promptly dragged for using the racist slur. Perhaps the highest-profile response came from model Naomi Campbell, who incredulously took to Instagram, writing “Seriously?! This better not be real!”
While Duma issued a standard—if lackluster—apology that read in part, “The word is utterly offensive, and I regret promoting it and am very sorry,” Sergeenko’s jumped on the defensive when responding to the incident.
“Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians and NP is one of my most favorite songs. And yes, [Duma and I] call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it,” she wrote in a post that was later deleted.
Walmart Sounds Off
Despite its blue branding, Walmart has long been seen as the Republican megastore of choice. So it came as a slight surprise this summer when shoppers were surprised to learn that the chain sold T-shirts and infant onesies with the phrase “Impeach 45” written across the chest.
Ryan Fournier, chairman of Students for Trump, first noticed the shirts. “What kind of message are you trying to send?” he questioned on Twitter. The merchandise was made by third-party vendor Old Glory Music & Entertainment and sold on Walmart’s e-commerce site before higher-ups pulled the apparel.
Cardi B Goes to Court
In October, Cardi B traded in her rainbow wig and Moschino duds for sexed-up business casual after her arrest for allegedly setting up an attack on two strip club bartenders. The rapper’s tan skirt suit was the topic of much discussion, as were the $795 white Gianvito Rossi slingback mules she wore to the occasion. Point being: if Cardi can make a perp walk look this good, you can muster the fortitude it takes to put on real pants while you work from home.
Kendall Jenner Mouths Off To Models
The often-vilified Kendall Jenner does not have to do much to draw the collective wrath of the internet, and no list of controversies would be complete without including at least one Kardashian behaving rudely.
So: in August, the 23-year-old model enraged her peers during an interview with Love magazine when she said, “Since the beginning we’ve been super-selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do, like, 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do. More power to ’em.”
Many working-class models who were not born with the silver spoon of Kris Jenner cooing “You’re doing amazing, sweetie” at every opportunity quickly responded to Jenner’s insensitive quote. They cited the unglamorous aspects of the profession Jenner does not have to deal with such as long hours and low wages.
Lena Dunham’s Fat-Shaming Sweatshirts
Care for a sweatshirt with the words, “Being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse” printed across your chest?
Neither did most of the Twitter world when images of a skinny white model wearing the garment leaked in September. The project was a collaboration between e-retailer Revolve the design label LPA, and celebrities including Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, and Paloma Elsesser.
According to an Instagram statement posted by Dunham (which was accompanied by an image of “curvy butts” painted by Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens, Dunham’s “problematic fave”), the project was supposedly “rooted in reclaiming the words of Internet trolls to celebrate the beauty of diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm.”
Despite such lofty goals, the allegedly well-intended line was pulled from Revolve’s virtual shelves after the backlash.
Meghan Markle’s Messy Bun
As Meghan Markle became the Duchess of Sussex in front of an estimated 1.9 million global viewers, the former actress had the audacity to wear her hair in a “messy bun” with strands falling to the front of her face.
The relaxed style, which is often reserved for busy college exam days, infuriated armchair critics who found offensive in its easy-breeziness. Three days into wedding bliss, Markle diplomatically appeased naysayers by wearing a tight updo to a ceremony honoring Prince Charles, potentially skirting another international incident.
Dolce & Gabbana's No Good, Very Bad Week
In an effort to corner a $7 billion luxury market in China, Italian fashion label Dolce & Gabbana offended many in the country in the course of one PR disaster of a week.
First, the line released a bizarre advertisement showing an Asian model attempting to eat pizza, spaghetti, and a cannoli with chopsticks. When co-founder Stefano Gabbana was criticized by a fan over Instagram direct messaging, he went on a wild rant equating Chinese culture to the poop emoji, calling those who were offended “inferior,” and suggesting that Chinese people “eat dogs.”
Screenshots of the conversation were leaked to the fashion industry watchdog account DietPrada, which led to the cancellation of an elaborately staged runway show in Shanghai. Gabanna and his partner Domenico Dolce released a YouTube apology, but the damage was already done: many Chinese customers posted videos of their luxury D&G goods on fire.
H&M's “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” Shirt
In January, fast fashion brand H&M apologized after releasing an image of a black child model wearing sweatshirt that read, "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle." The photo was quickly condemned, with many wondering what creative team could have possibly approved such a culturally insensitive image.
The outrage prompted The Weeknd to publicly cut ties with the Swedish retailer, after a year of many collaborations. In response, H&M took the image off of its e-commerce site and issued an apology statement promising to "review all (of its) internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues."
Prada's 'Blackface' controversy
Another racism-related controversy blew up on Friday when luxury Italian fashion house Prada shut down a New York City storefront and pulled a keychain from its stock after the accessory went viral for resembling blackface imagery.
The complaint was first made on Twitter and Facebook by Chinyere Ezie, a civil rights attorney and activist who works at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ezie saw the keychain while walking past the line’s SoHo store in downtown Manhattan.
The Golden Globes Got the #MeToo Treatment
For the first major award show since the beginning of the #MeToo Movement, most high-profile female attendees of January's Golden Globes opted to wear all black to protest sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
Did the act of solidarity change anything? Not really. All the hallmarks of a traditional red carpet were in effect: the gowns were still expensive, designers' names were still dropped. Though no major names broke the black protocol, one actress named Blanca Blanco was skewered for standing out in a slitted crimson red frock.
Marchesa's Connection to Harvey Weinstein
After her husband Harvey Weinstein was accused of numerous sexual assaults, Georgia Chapman found support from the fashion community. The co-founder of Marchesa, a label known for dressing actresses on the red carpet (often at Weinstein's insistence), was sensitively profiled in Vogue. She found a powerful friend in Anna Wintour, the glossy's editor-in-chief, and an ally in Scarlett Johansson, who wore a rose Marchesa gown to the Met Gala.
Then in June, a Daily Beast investigation revealed links between Marchesa and a company called SeaMarch Creations Inc., which listed Harvey Weinstein as its "president" and "officer." This means that the disgraced producer could still earn a profit from Marchesa.
Weinstein, Chapman, and reps for Marchesa refused to comment to The Daily Beast on any financial links between the two companies.
In advance of the the annual, televised Victoria's Secret fashion show, the lingerie chain's CMO, Ed Razek, garnered ire for comments made about the plus-size and trans community.
Razek's quotes—especially, "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."—were deemed transphobic and quickly condemned online. Though Razek later apologized through a statement posted to the brand's Twitter page, the show suffered and earned its lowest ratings ever.
1. The Jacket
The most notorious fashion moment of the year undoubtedly goes to Melania Trump, who wore a $39 Zara jacket that read, "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" to visit detained undocumented immigrant children at the Texas border.
Her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying there was "no hidden meaning" in the garment. Later, President Donald Trump said the words were directed at the press. Melania would later agree in an interview from Kenya with ABC's Tom Llamas later—during which she was wearing another controversial outfit, a colonial-style pith helmet.