Models clad in black stir controversy at Taipei Fashion Week

Indigenous Taiwanese designer's ensembles interpreted by attendee as 'blackface'

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Model covered in black at Sunday's show. (Photo by Alexandre Cailleaux)

Model covered in black at Sunday's show. (Photo by Alexandre Cailleaux)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In what appears to be a cultural misunderstanding, the 2019 Taipei Fashion Week SS20 stirred controversy on Sunday (Oct. 6) after several models were seen with their heads and limbs covered in black fabric, leading one attendee to accuse the designer of dressing the models in "blackface."

At the finale of the fashion week's welcome party, which took place at Taipei World Trade Center's Exhibition Hall 3, models wore brightly colored dresses with patterns reminiscent of African designs. The face, head, neck, arms, and legs were covered in a thin black fabric.

The models' faces were black and featureless with the exception of bright red, jeweled lips. The ensembles were accentuated with matching bows that the models wore on their heads.


Models clad in black at Sunday's show. (Images from Twitter user @AnicaTCLin)

At 7:40 p.m. on Sunday evening, Taiwanese jeweler Anica Lin took to Twitter to complain about the fashion show, saying "Blackface is not okay. I didn't catch the name of the designer but in this day and age this is NOT COOL."

On Monday afternoon (Oct. 7) at 1 p.m., Lin posted a second comment about the event and mentioned Taiwanese indigenous fashion designer Sabra Andre (沙布, 安德烈), asking him "How do you think this is OK?" She then warns, "You better pull the line before you walk it down the runway next week. When fashion crosses the line."

Lin, who was born and raised in Swaziland, told Taiwan News that the biggest problem was the all-black coloring and red lips, which all the models wore regardless of their ethnicity. Adding insult to injury, "The line had a very 'tribal' look topped off with head wraps," she said, adding that it had offended many of her black friends.

Andre, who is a member of the Taiwanese Paiwan tribe, is known for creating colorful designs inspired by indigenous Taiwanese art. His ensembles often include head coverings of various colors, with the models' features completely masked, similar to an abstract mannequin.

As can be seen in photos from a previous fashion show in March, the models, in this case, wore lighter colored masks. In 2018, Andre stole the show at Vancouver Fashion Week with his cutting-edge designs inspired by the 100 pacer viper, a sacred symbol for many Taiwanese tribes.


Models with blank, white faces and black lips. (Photo from Facebook page @Sabra.Andre)


Models wearing outfits inspired by 100 pacer viper. (Photo from Facebook page @Sabra.Andre)

Taiwan News has reached out to Andre for comment but has yet to receive a response at the time of publication.