Update: Miu Miu issued the following statement to Refinery29: "The videos were part of an artistic installation used as part of the set design for our Spring show presentation, they depicted the behind the scenes, backstage process of our models preparing for a show, which includes the application of hair and make-up. Some of our models required the use of caps while dressing, which are commonly used in the hairdressing process. At no point were models in these caps on the runway or during the show. Again, thank you for bringing this to our attention, as we continually strive to be more aware of the incredible nuances that exist across cultures."
This story was originally published on April 4, 2019.
Miuccia Prada debuted Miu Miu's spring 2019 collection last October, and it featured "E-Miu-ticons" or pieces designed to “reinvigorate the dialogue between Miu Miu, Paris, and its inhabitants,” according to press materials from the brand. But the videos created as part of an installation for the set of the spring show for the collection features an item that some consider culturally insensitive.
In a video accompanying the handbags and jewelry, two models are shown, side by side, wearing what appear to be either wave or wig caps — an item typically worn by Black people to protect their hair and one that many have been shamed for wearing in public. It didn't take long before people began discussing it on social media. The thinking goes: Now that non-black models are wearing this cap in a high fashion campaign, is it suddenly considered socially acceptable?
“The thing that’s most annoying about this Miu Miu ad with sis wearing a wave/wig cap is: Prada just announced that Diversity & Inclusion advisor board. Shouldn’t they have ADVISED on the nuance of this?” one user tweeted. Another replied, “Oh thank God! it’s not just me, the whole time I was staring at it like...why?”
According to the brand's website, “these [e-miu-ticons] – an expression of a Miu attitude, perhaps – may be found printed and patched across everything from iconic bags to small accessories, from baseball caps to a capsule collection of clothing including signature cardigans, miniskirts, hoodies, track pants, and T-shirts. Juxtaposing irreverence and the finest craftsmanship, femininity and a determinedly free spirit, the offering encapsulates everything the Miu Miu name stands for.” It's unclear how the caps play into that symbolism.
In December, after sister brand Prada pulled its Blackface figurines from its shelves, they announced it would “improve diversity training and will immediately form an Advisory Council to guide our efforts on diversity, inclusion and culture.” Prada also said it would begin to “examine the processes that led to such a product reaching the market in the first place.”
The hard part for Miuccia, as she told WWD in January, is that “people want respect because now there is talk of cultural appropriation, but this is the foundation of fashion, as it has always been the basis of art, of everything.” She says she questioned if she could offend anyone with her latest collection. “I talked about it with the Fondazione [Prada], with the intellectuals, it really is a problem — one would have to set up ‘secret societies’ — otherwise there is no progressive thinking,” the designer continued. “If you are not free to say things that may also not be correct and you have to be careful every time you open your mouth, how can you talk with freedom of thought? This really is a turning point. The world is bigger and I understand this and I also understand that people finally have a voice and speak up.”
Though gatekeepers like Miuccia Prada have made inroads to represent more diversity — in her case, opening a womenswear show with a Black model for the first time in over 10 years, putting The Black Image Corporation on view at Prada's cultural complex, adding the diversity council — many still manage to make missteps like this. It begs the question: with Prada's new preventive process in place to keep culturally insensitive products from happening, how did Miu Miu's wave/wig cap slip through?
We've heard back from Miu Miu and have updated this story.