Claudio Cutugno, an Italian designer, has come under fire in the U.S. after being accused of using blackface in his show during Milan Fashion Week.

Claudio Cutugno Models In Black Makeup

In Cutugno’s show, the models walked down the runway with their faces covered in black makeup and glitter. While audiences in Europe appear to have little response to the makeup, American audiences have been calling the show racist and identifying the makeup as blackface. Of course, while many media outlets were quick to call Cutugno racist, some defended the designer, noting the absence of any other cultural imagery or undertones in the show to suggest a racially motivated makeup decision.

After the show, it was rumored that Cutugno was inspired by artist Emilio Isgrò and his work with bees and insects. Cutugno was rumored to have used the black makeup to mimic the image of insects covering the models’ faces. However, Cutugno denied that he wanted to make the models appear covered in insects in his public statement on the controversy.

Claudio Cutugno/Getty

Claudio Cutugno/Getty


Claudio Cutugno Apologizes For ‘Blackface’ Makeup

In his statement, Cutugno said that the black makeup was, indeed, inspired by Isgrò, but not by his work with bees. Instead, Cutugno was inspired by Isgrò’s work regarding the blacking out of certain words in a text to create a new meaning. “I did not even wanted to refer to the bees Isgrò is using in his artworks: someone said I wanted to represent the faces ‘as they would have been swarmed by bees’ but to me that idea would have not been cohesive with the whole creative process behind the collection and above all pretty cruel,” Cutugno said in a statement to E! News. Furthermore, Cutungno stated that the black makeup was meant to signify a black veil, which signifies mourning, saying, “So the black makeup we decided to use was actually a translation of the black veil. I chose not to use the real veil because I did not want to cover the whole faces of the models.” In fact, Cutugno has previously used black veils in other runway shows. In June, Cutugno had models wearing a sort of helmet complete with a veil that covered the face.

Cutugno also apologized for any offense caused by his show and made clear that he never even thought of the makeup in a racial context:

“I am extremely sorry if many people thought this make up would result offensive and also that I am racist, but that was not my intent. I am extremely respectful of the afroamerican culture and extremely sorry for each type episode of racism. Furthermore my inspiration was coming from a completely different idea which has nothing to do with the theme of afroamerican culture. I would have never [thought] someone could have find the makeup offensive, otherwise I would have never used it [sic].”

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