Comme des Garçons president Adrian Joffe under blast over accusations of not casting models of color, blocks people on Instagram

Rei Kawakubo‘s husband and president of cult fashion brand Comme des Garçons, Adrian Joffe has recently been under netizen’s fire over debate of lack of models’ diversity on their fashion shows.
Trouble started on Tumblr when user amen69fashion wrote a post complaining about Comme lack of racial diversity in their show, bringing up the fact that the brand didn’t cast a single model of color since 1994.


The user encouraged everyone to get to Adrian Joffe’s Instagram and address him about this issue:


This call out post ensued people to rush to Joffe’s Instagram that got spammed by hundreds of comments repeatedly asking “Why don’t you cast models of colors??“. Joffe urgently addressed this ‘call out OP’ by ignoring the accusations, deleting every spammed posts – the movement mushroomed so much he basically had to delete all of his entries -, and blocked every commenting users. He eventually resorted turning off the commenting option to get some respite.

There is unfortunately no remain of people’s outrage on Joffe’s now cleaned up Insta page (which I suspect is now heavily moderated/monitored), but Tumblr users who participated to the call out OP shared their opinions on their platform :

“And yet he has pictures of Ancient Egyptian stuff on his page….”

“lol he’s been turning his comments off. coward.”

“He’s out here posting pictures of egyptian shit, aka enjoying glamorous black history while hating black people.”

“Wow he didn’t even delete the comments he deleted the whole ass posts that people commented on lmao”

“He’s a white South African so I wouldn’t bank on any change😓”

“We need to stop trying to blindly believe CdG is not doing this on purpose and has no malicious intent. Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe are purposefully ignoring and silencing any kind of criticism against the lack of diversity in their casting. They ARE being racist and they ARE being anti-black. It’s hard to accept especially because a lot of people feel like CdG has shown that fashion can be about something else than beauty and can be an act of kindness towards yourself but it’s obvious that they have no intention to go against the racism and anti-blackness of the fashion system at large and are intentionally participating in it. How can you call your brand “a gift to oneself” and then act like that? This is getting exhausting. Their attitude towards any kind of criticism is disgusting.”

I’ll second the comment above last sentence saying that more than anything, this is Joffe’s petty reaction which actually worsened the whole situation.
As someone being hailed as the “last real punk of fashion industry“, refusing to face and answer the accusations and concerns of people, willingly ignoring and silencing them, reveal to some degree an obvious disdain for the ‘lesser ones’. Being an alleged “libertarian” didn’t stop him to endorse a very conservative disregard towards opinions of people he didn’t deem worthy of his attention.

Joffe well surrounded with some fashion industry's big-heads.

Comme des Garçons is unanimously praised for its avant-garde & unapologetic vision of fashion along with its innovative and prosperous business model, but considering Joffe’s deafening silence about one of fashion industry’s most addressed problem, it’s like their actual last limit was casting non-White models – which is pretty ironic, if not utterly disconcerting.
But at Comme‘s discharge, a fair share of other Japanese fashion brands seem to endorse – more or less explicitly – a ‘White models only’ casting policy.

Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER is the most obvious. I have an insider’s anecdote relating that when one Asian model (who was the insider’s friend) attended their casting, some assistant came to her, shrugged her hand a bit embarrassed and said sorry, we cast White models only.

UNDERCOVER "White only" casting

The lack of models diversity is a well-known problem that has been addressed many times, even from many industry insider. But this issue becomes more tricky when non-White designers seem to endorse this ideology. Pandering to a Western audience is not necessarily an excuse since some international Japanese designers promote “Japonism” through their designs and ‘Asian only’ casting direction as a way to differentiate themselves from a Western dominated fashion market.

Whoever ever read a Japanese high fashion magazine may have been quite surprised by the amount of foreign models. Their prominence could be explained by the high-profile (reverse) ‘exoticness’ they assert, but this reality only adds to the statement admitting the dominance of White models regardless of magazines’ countries of publication is a global concern.

As a Fashion Designer myself, my stance on the whole Joffe drama is mostly amused, but also a bit conflicted.

While I think there is pertinence to call out designers when they apply blatant discriminatory casting rules, one may wonder if trying to dictate who designers should cast or not is not actually crossing the line.
I would never deny the blatant lack of models diversity, but I think it’s bit pointless to harass designers over casting choice. Endlessly begging and expecting change from well established designers/fashion houses with a steady “”creative universe”” won’t bring magically change – and the most aggressive call out OP are definitively not going to help with it. Bad publicity is actually something that can bring some relevance to waning houses in a desperate attempt be back in the public eye. Whoever didn’t work within this industry would be surprised by its disconcerting tolerance to controversy and fascination to political incorrectness.

It’s about time people realize that the only way to turn tables and bring change in the fashion industry is through rise of young blood : new designers, new casting directors, new creative directors, etc. Instead of looking for validation from others, we should look back to ourselves and see our potential to change an industry that has been ruled by the same old washed out big-heads way too long.

Expecting things to be to be handed down to us through silly spam campaign may be entertaining, but I’m a bit sceptical about their actual relevance on the long run. We shouldn’t underestimate our potential to bring a real game changing experience and provide a more balanced and effective response than contestation only.
Let’s not waste our potential losing our time bothering people who clearly don’t care about us or our concerns – and never will. The ball is in our camp.

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  • Comments

    • Rico

      This has nothing to do with Japanese media. I don’t care about the latest things westerners are outraged about.

      • hasawa

        Rei Kawakubo is a JAPANESE designer and Comme des Garçon a JAPANESE brand.

        • Rico

          Oh sorry. I didn’t know Adrian Joffe, the person being criticized in this article, was Japanese.

          • hasawa

            I really don’t get why you wanna play dumb.
            Joffe is the president of a Japanese brand which designer happens to be his own wife, a JAPANESE designer. People lashed out on Joffe’s instagram only bc Rei doesn’t have any social
            media and is actually EXTREMELY lowkey. You shouldn’t be fooled by Joffe’s “president” status and dismiss the fact that this is REI KAWAKUBO who lastly
            has the very last word about which models she uses for her shows and the fact that Comme didn’t cast a single model of color since more than 20 fricking years. READ BETWEEN THE LINES.

      • Fayodezhu

        same!

    • yacchaitai

      “sorry, we cast White models only“ that’s a bit uh… Yikes

      • Human Cobras

        i need proof that they was actually said. it’s just rumor.

        • hasawa

          LOL! Seriously?? Do you want a testimony of my friend’s asian model? Did she have to record their discussion to back up her claim for you to believe that racism actually exists??

    • eplizo

      Great post. I always get really irked/disgusted at how there is an overwhelming presence of white models even in the Japanese fashion industry. Even if you are to look at the websites of Japanese modeling agencies, many of them are almost exclusively feature white faces lol. It’s also so sad how so many Japanese designers and people in the industry are so complicit in it. idg how you wouldn’t have an asian model for an asian brand….. It’s not a surprise at all cause the industry at large has been heavily complicit with racism and classism, but it’s funny that the brand hasn’t had a single POC model since 1994. That’s just ridiculous.

      • hasawa

        “idg how you wouldn’t have an asian model for an asian brand…..”
        This exactly. I don’t care about Western fashion brands casting White models only, but Asian brand casting ONLY White models (probably under fallacious excuses such as “”aesthetic”””) reeks of self-hate and submission to cultural imperialism. Sad.

        • Human Cobras

          it’s all rumor and not based on facts of racism. CdG Homme Plus show had black models. So again, how are they racist?

          • hasawa

            How is not seeing Black models on Comme runway since 20 years a “rumor”..?
            And I already said that male Black models actually had more easily access to Japanese designer’s runways than Black models.

    • hasawa

      Adrian Joffe? CANCELED
      Comme des Garçons? CANCELED
      Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER?? CANCELED!!

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f34686bdd15275a4f2cbfc5424af29063bd2c0ca8e6975e44d7489dcdb8ac9c.gif

      • Human Cobras

        i love them all still. i don’t buy that they’re racist. more proof is needed. CdG used black models in their latest homme plus show. Look it up.

        • hasawa

          I could give a pass to Joffe’s out of touch ass, but seeing Takahashi’s Japanese ass drive back a fellow Asian model bc she’s not White is straight up discriminatory and inexcusable. This is a FACT and not a “rumor”.

    • PigeonPop

      It’s almost like a foil to KENZO and not in a good way either.
      I wasn’t aware of this, so I appreciate the post hasawa. 🙏

    • Jo

      Similar thing with Yohji Yamamoto runway, couple of years ago I could see quite a number of Asian men walking for his Homme collections but there weren’t any Asian female models for the Femme. But still you can sometimes find models of colour in his show. Issey Miyake are more diverse though.

      • hasawa

        I think male Japanese dsigners are a bit more open to “diverse” models. I’m just a bit bothered that when they do, it’s always motivated by the cliché people attribute to Black people, like “urban” or “sporty” (it’s not a coincidence there’s a fair share of Black models in Y-3 for example).
        I recently read an article about Yayoi Kusama relating she wrote books where she marveled about Black people “distinctive smell” and “animalistic sexual behavior”. She’s never been called out about it because ~strangely~ these passages never been included in the English translations…
        I’m definitively done with these overrated fake deep ass edgy female Japanese artists. They’re all cancelled lol

        • TakeThat

          Where did you read that about Yayoi Kusama? Considering that she did suffer from her parents conservative upbringing and went to NY to live and work there this is so narrow-minded (or racist in that matter) for her to say that. Then again, I find her work to be very.. dull.

          • hasawa

            https://news.vice.com/story/japans-most-famous-avant-garde-artist-banned-us-from-her-studio
            I’m not surprised she’s from a conservative offspring. Sis is typical from those “allies” trying to back up their ‘unholy’ social background pretending to be woke about oppressed minorities’ struggles but inconsciously repeating the same narrative of said “oppressor”, but on the opposite of the spectrum. They don’t seem to realize they validate the stigmas/clichés attributed to those communities since that instead of demonizing them over it, they marvel about them : praising “the colored” over their good dancing skills, boundless sexuality and shit. I find them way more embarassing than actual racists cause at least the laters don’t pretend to White knight anyone and are actually straightforward with their bullshit lol

            • TakeThat

              Thanks for the link! I bet she felt uncomfortable because the guy who interviewed her was black and she didn’t know that beforehand. Then again, she really isn’t mentally right in her head if she’s living in a psychiatric hospital for 40 years (!). Girl, stay in your lane and continue painting dots lol.

              That ally thing reminds me of a German classmate who developed a huge fetish for anything related to Turkey after she’s been there for 2 months (mind you, she was in Izmir and Istanbul and those cities are not authentic Turkish). She now thinks she can speak for us, acts like she’s Turkish and post only things about Turkey on facebook. Bitch even hold the Turkish flag and commented “Ne mutlu Türküm diyene” (how happy is the one who says I am a Turk). She can’t even speak the language…

              You either have people who are lowkey racist like Yayoi who are praising (racist) stereotypes or people who think they can speak for a certain group after dwelling in their culture.

              • hasawa

                “I bet she felt uncomfortable because the guy who interviewed her was black and she didn’t know that beforehand. ”
                I thought the same thing. But then it would be legitimate to wonder why she’s been praising Black people in her books only to feel uncomfortable when she meets one IRL. But I’ll give her a pass ONLY because of her mental illness…

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    • Paddy Alfan

      Japan only love for black people is if they’re in the music or comedy. Plus sports to some extent.
      We should ask the gracious president Trump to bring democracy back knocking to this racist nation door!

    • Human Cobras

      Comme des Garçons last menswear show had black models. How is that racist of a company as a whole? Also, the blame should be on the agencies that don’t hire more models of color. Some designers have complained that there is a lack of number of models of color. What about starting there? Also, designers shouldn’t be forced to do so. That’s a double standard too.