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White designer and editor use the n-word, shitstorm follows

The pair claim it was in reference to the 2011 song by Kanye West and Jay-Z

In the wake of H&M’s hoodie controversy – which caused protestors to smash up stores in South Africa – you’d be probably be thinking that people in fashion would be doing their best to, you know, not be racist.

Well, lol. Yesterday Kazakhstan-born couturier Ulyana Sergeenko found herself under fire for using the n-word in a note sent to Russian editor and entrepreneur Miroslava Duma, that was subsequently posted on her Instagram story. The designer wrote: “To my niggas in Paris” – a tone-deaf reference to the 2011 Kanye West and Jay-Z song.

Among those rightfully outraged was Naomi Campbell, who posted on her own story calling out Sergeenko. “This better not be real!” She said. The situation worsened when the designer posted an explanation behind the note, which was a poor attempt at an apology. “Yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe we are just as cool as these guys who sing it,” it read. Cancelling her show (which was supposed to go ahead yesterday) in favour of a presentation, Sergeenko told Garage: “I’m so upset that I spoiled it.” Violin emoji.

Duma also apologised, but this morning controversial footage of her has been unearthed. Posted by Diet Prada, it shows her agreeing with an audience member who thinks there should be a kind of censorship to stop promoting men like blogger Bryanboy and transgender model Andreja Pejic for wearing women’s clothing. Subtitled by @sasharubchinskiy on Twitter, Duma said: “Honestly I dislike that, because somewhere on TV or in a magazine a little boy could see it. And that boy wouldn’t understand it correctly, wouldn’t react correctly.”

This isn’t Duma’s first controversy either. In 2013, she was photographed in a street style picture at NYFW posing a few feet away from a homeless man, seemingly none-the-wiser. In 2014, she faced criticism again for an interview posted on her website Buro 24/7 with Dasha Zhukova. It featured the Russian socialite sitting on an Allen Jones-esque chair by Bjarne Melgaard, made to look like a scantily-dressed black woman with her legs behind her head. While at the time a statement released said, “Buro 24/7 is categorically opposed to the idea of racism, oppression or humiliation of people in any form," the image was never removed from the site and was instead cropped so you couldn’t see the bottom half of the chair.

We reached out to both Sergeenko and Duma’s representatives for comment and will update when we hear back. 

UPDATE: Duma has now released the following statement: First things first: I am deeply ashamed by the comments I made in 2012. Frankly, I’m as shocked as anyone to be viewing that footage today, and to see for my own eyes how utterly offensive and hurtful my actions were back then. And when I consider that my comments were made in front of an audience of students – young people with open minds and positive attitudes – it makes them seem all the more insensitive and out of touch.

As we all know, the world is evolving at an extraordinary pace, and we as humans evolve too. The person I was six years ago is not who I am today. In the intervening years, I have committed myself to a journey of personal growth, where ignorance has been replaced by acceptance, and discrimination by inclusion. I deeply respect people of all backgrounds: I believe in equality for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, religion or sexual orientation.

If any positive change is to come from recent events, then I sincerely hope that the public discussions surrounding me might shine a light on the broader need to stamp out discrimination from society once and for all. It is true that I come from a culture where words and attitudes may be different than the Western ideals that I, in fact, have come to understand and accept. I know now, better than ever, that I should be an example of positivity and progress for the people who follow me, and that my platform and privilege can be used as agents of change – particularly in our current political environment. 

I’d like to formally apologise to any individuals or communities that I have offended. Similarly, I’d like to extend this apology to the professional organisations I am affiliated with. The comments I made are in no way representative of those organisations or their teams.
I do not expect instant forgiveness, nor forgiveness at all, for those I’ve offended. I know that my actions must speak louder than my words or gestures on social media - and I pledge to do the necessary work to gain back people's trust and respect.