Yeah, you read that right. Filed under the 'Icky Icky Poo,' 'Fashion Smashion,' and 'Sad Sad' sections of Coco Perez, we find Japanese brand N. Hoolywood in a bit of hot water. At New York Fashion Week Men's yesterday, the label presented a fall 2017 collection that was inspired by homeless people, per the show notes. And, to our dismay, the show's attendees remained silent, effectively condoning the show's message by posting congratulatory (and blurry) snapshots on Instagram. But why?
The show notes detailing designer Daisuke Obana's inspiration read as follows: "As our designer traveled the cities of America, he witnessed the various ways in which people there lived on the streets and the knowledge they have acquired while doing so. His observations of these so-called homeless or street people revealed that them [sic] to be full of clever ideas for covering the necessities of life. Space blankets or moving blankets can be fashioned into coats for cold days, and plastic bags can double as waterproof boots when it rains. This season features designs that embrace their unique style of combining traditionally contrasting elements, such as unconventional layering or senses of color, along with experimental sizing."
If this all sounds very similar to that scene from Zoolander, that's because it is. But this certainly isn't the first time fashion has gone too far. In 1995, Rei Kawakubo's menswear collection felt especially tone deaf when she sent models down the runway in Holocaust victim-inspired outfits, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the camp's liberation. In 2015, Valentino presented an African-inspired collection on a cast of models that were predominantly white (and used words like "tribal" and "wild" to describe Africa in the show notes). And, of course, there was last seasons's Marc Jacobs show that misattributed corn rows to rave culture. (Beyond designers' gaffes over the years, you can also find a history of Vogue's editorial hiccups on New York.)
It's not often the fashion industry holds a mirror up to itself and rights its wrongs, but even when it does, it seems it's never enough to stop the same thing from happening again. Look, Obana could have just presented his collection without the exploitation (or any mention whatsoever) of homeless people, those who could never afford his clothes anyway but so desperately need something to wear. Also, we wonder why the brand wouldn't at least donate some of the proceeds to homeless shelters or charities.
It goes without saying that this is all pretty disappointing for some pretty obvious reasons, but this misstep is particularly unfortunate for the brand itself, seeing as the collection is actually quite strong, excluding, of course, those plastic bags made out of newspaper print, which is probably supposed to represent a critical tool for survival when the roof over your head is a piece of cardboard. We've reached out to the brand for comment and will update this story when we hear back.