Fashion Institute apologizes: Accessories did not intend 'to make a statement about race'
© Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Fashion Institute Of Technology

The Fashion Institute of Technology has apologized after a fashion show held by graduating students featured accessories meant to depict exaggerated facial features that at least one model said were racist.

Critics, including one model at the show, Amy Lefévre, said that accessories handed out to models at the school's Feb. 7 show mimicked historically offensive caricatures of black people and should not have been handed out to models, some of whom wore the accessories onstage.

“I stood there almost ready to break down, telling the staff that I felt incredibly uncomfortable with having to wear these pieces and that they were clearly racist,” Lefévre, who is black, told the New York Post in an interview. “I have never felt like that in my life.”

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Dr. Joyce Brown, the school's president, wrote in an open letter that the school will "be taking several steps" to address concerns about the show.

"Let me be clear: no person should be made to feel uncomfortable—particularly about race—in service of their work, job, livelihood, or course of study," Brown wrote. "Right now, we are actively investigating how this happened. And as you’ll read, we have outlined several steps to address the concerns and questions of students, faculty, and our community."

"We take this very seriously and our response and actions going forward will reflect that," she added.

Brown's letter did not specify why the accessories were handed out, and it was unclear in media reports what the artistic purpose of the facial accessories was meant to be. In her letter, she asserted that the artist's purpose did not appear to be racist.

“It does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories or the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race; however, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome,” she continued. “For that, we apologize — to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw.”