What would the fashion industry be if it didn’t ruffle a few feathers? Held up by strict beauty standards and abiding elitism, the business is all too often the subject of countless debates and controversies - and rest assured, 2015 did not fall short.
While this year saw plenty of stunts meant to stretch boundaries of creativity, issues of plagiarism, cultural appropriation and nudity also garnered their fair share of attention, too.
You’ll be quick to point out that our favorite Disney rogue and beloved Goth-father win the spot as the year’s biggest fashion offenders (unsurprisingly), but there's still plenty more controversies that got us talking in 2015.
For more end of year fashion reviews, check out The 10 Biggest Trends of 2015.
YEEZY Season 1's Astronomical Prices
If I had a penny for every time I uttered the word “YEEZY” this year, well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article. The fact that Kanye West’s adidas-collaborated collection would go down as the year’s most hyped was a given, but to the surprise (and disappointment) of many, 'Ye dropped quite the doozy when he revealed the line’s excruciatingly high price tags.
Despite the rapper’s proclamations of making clothes for the masses and democratizing fashion, YEEZY Season 1’s extremely high prices - which included everything from $3,000 jackets to $600 sweatpants - flipped this statement on its backside.
Though it was clear that many of the pieces would be well out of reach for the majority of Kanye’s fanbase, according to some big-named retailers, Season 1 performed surprisingly well. “Given the hype around the collection since its debut at fashion week, we knew it would perform well – and it has,” SSENSE menswear buying manager Federico Barassi told us last month. “As expected, the highest demand was for the YEEZY Boost 950 which we sold out of almost immediately…we continue to see steady sell-through on the ready-to-wear pieces.”
So whether the people buying the collection actually had the capital to afford it, or whether it was just a legion of fuccbois burning up their parents' credit cards, the face-slapping prices and positive performance of YEEZY Season 1 placed Kanye West as this year’s biggest troll in fashion - and we haven’t even started on Jeremy Scott yet.
This year’s first strike from our beloved Goth-father, Rick Owens kicked off 2015 with a retina full of surprises during his FW15 show at Paris Fashion Week. Upon unveiling his “SPHINX” collection, the designer let loose a parade of models down the catwalk donning garments which, through some revealing cuts and strategically placed holes, enabled a peeping display of their genitalia. No doubt this left many stuffy crowd members snickering in embarrassment while simultaneously leaning forward to catch a better glimpse.
A statement on the perennial taboo of male nudity in fashion, Owens commented, “Well, isn’t it time? I thought it was the most simple, primal gesture – and you know I love a simply tiny, little gesture that packs the wallop.” No pun intended I’m sure.
KTZ Disgraces Sacred Inuit Garment
Fashion's annual round of plagiarism came from London's KTZ, who found themselves in some hot water after lifting prints from a sacred Inuit garment in their FW15 collection.
According to Salome Awa - the great-granddaughter of Aua, the last Shaman of the Canadian Inuit - the $900 “Shaman Towelling Sweatshirt” sported an exact replica of her grandfather’s design, which, according to Inuit dictum, is completely forbidden from being copied or appropriated. “These are sacred images that they are using,” Awa told CBC News. “They are breaking the Inuit sacred laws of duplicating someone else's shaman clothing - for profit of all things.”
In response to the scandal, KTZ issued a formal statement apologizing to Awa, saying, “Over the last 20 years KTZ has always been inspired by and paid homage to indigenous cultures and tribes around the world. It’s part of KTZ’s DNA to celebrate multiculturalism as a form of art and to encourage appreciation for traditions, ethnicities and religions’ diversity.”
Though they made mention of crediting the Inuit community in the press release and removed the item from sale, Awa’s response to the mea culpa was bittersweet, telling CBC: “I’m kind of happy about it but sad at the same time... They didn’t even mention an apology to my great-grandfather and they didn’t even offer any monetary gains to our family... This is a stolen piece.” Guess you can’t please everyone.
Jeremy Scott’s Street Art Simulation
To the surprise of no one, Jeremy Scott continued his track record of plagiarism scandals this year with a graffiti-laden gown featured in his FW15 Moschino collection. The piece in contention was modeled by Gigi Hadid during Milan Fashion Week and received even further attention when it was worn by Katy Perry at this year’s Met Gala - getting her on a number of “Worst Dressed” lists in the process.
In September - at the premiere of his documentary The People’s Designer, no less - the enfant terrible visionary was slapped with a seven-claim copyright suit from NYC street artist Joseph “Rime” Tierney. According to Tierney, Scott’s collection sported elements of the “Vandal Eyes” mural he created on the side of a Detroit building back in 2012.
"Rime is a well-known artist. Defendants Moschino and Jeremy Scott…inexplicably placed Rime's art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent,” the lawsuit read. “If this literal misappropriation were not bad enough, Moschino and Jeremy Scott did their own painting over that of the artist — superimposing the Moschino and Jeremy Scott brand names in spray-paint style as if part of the original work.”
In response to the debacle, the outlandish designer stressed that he “had the idea of doing a graffiti-based collection,” but did not design the actual print on the dress. While the court-ordered outcome has yet to be determined, Scott’s history of ripping off other artists’ work certainly doesn’t lean towards his favor.
Selena Gomez's Jailbait ‘V Magazine’ Spread
Another classic “Disney star gone rogue” scenario, Selena Gomez’s racy cover for V Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue was subject to a gust of furor when it was unveiled. Shot by renowned photographers Inez and Vinoodh, the shoot went beyond tongue-in-cheek, presenting the baby-faced 22-year-old singer in a series of sultry getups complete with bows, girly gingham print and denim hot pants. All that was missing was a lollipop dangling out of her mouth.
Naturally, the spread made countless fans squirm in discomfort, dubbing it as “disturbing,” “Lolita-inspired” and looking like a “12-year-old child pageant contestant in skimpy clothing.”
Junya Watanabe's African-Themed SS16 Show
Fashion’s ongoing practice of cultural appropriation continued with Junya Watanabe’s SS16 show at Paris Fashion Week. The Japanese designer drew inspiration from traditional African clothing and accessories, yet cast a troupe of models that consisted predominately - if not entirely - of caucasians.
The show featured a broad collection of vibrant traditional textiles, collars and layered necklaces, while some models donned dreadlock wigs, spears and wooden masks. Though the pieces themselves garnered praise among many within the fashion community, Watanabe’s lack of black models and exploited use of African culture was not overlooked. “Some might see the Masai necklaces, wooden masks and metal spears as overkill, and insensitive to the darker side of colonialism,” one writer wrote in WWD, while NowFashion conceded, “Much like Vampire Weekend's 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,' Watanabe's collection reflected on colonialism, and exploited the in-roads between preppy and native African culture.”
Rick Owens' “Kill Angela Merkel” Controversy
Though Rick Owens is accustomed to clutching headlines, in this particular case he caused controversy from something completely out of his control (for once). Instead, it was one of Owens’ models causing attendees to bate their breath - this time at his Spring/Summer 2016 “Cyclops” show in Paris. The model, known as Jera, held up a home-made sign to the cameras at the end of the catwalk reading “Please kill Angela Merkel” followed by the word "not." Though the exact meaning of the commentary on Germany’s chancellor was unclear, Rick’s reaction was crystal.
The eccentric designer was swift to condemn the act, stating, “It was not my idea. He pulled it out and I punched him when he came off stage. He’s been my male muse for the past 12 years or something and I think he just felt comfortable enough to do something in a show and I’m furious.” Reaffirming this stance, the design house themselves released the official statement: “Rick Owens does not claim responsibility for the act of protest by a model at the Spring Summer 2016 show. This was an independent statement and does not reflect the opinion of the house of Rick Owens.”
Tomorrow Is Another Day, the agency that represented Jera, quickly sacked him immediately after the show, with CEO Eva Goedel labelling the model as "an idiot" and stating, “if you have two boys on your books like Jera, you kill yourself. You could never even guarantee that he'd turn up – Rick was so generous in working with him.”
Caitlyn Jenner Debuts on ‘Vanity Fair’ Cover
While not controversial in the traditional sense, the revelation of the newly transformed Caitlyn (FKA Bruce) Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair’s July 2015 issue initiated torrents of discussion and debate.
After months of rumors and speculation, Jenner finally revealed plans of transitioning into a female via an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer back in April. Following suit was an exclusive Annie Leibovitz-shot editorial where the Olympics gold medalist and Keeping Up with the Kardashians patriarch finally unveiled her new self to the world, telling author and VF contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life’.”
The spread marked a landmark moment in LGBT history and positioned Jenner as the first-ever openly transgender woman to be featured in the magazine. In addition, Jenner set a new Guinness World Record when she amassed over one million Twitter followers in just over four hours upon creating her new @Caitlyn_Jenner Twitter handle - a feat previously accomplished by President Barack Obama in four and a half hours nearly a month prior.
Miley Cyrus’ Disloyalty Towards Di$count Universe
What would a VMA show be without a Miley Cyrus controversy? At this year’s affair, the brazen pop starlet - who also hosted the ceremony - went under fire after performing in costumes that allegedly plagiarized the designs of Australian label Di$count Universe, a former favorite of the singer. The outfits sported key features from the Melbourne-based cult fashion label's trademark style including eyeball graphics, glittery sequins and angular color blocking, but were created by Brad "BCalla" Callahan and Miley's stylist, Simone Harrouche.
The duo behind Di$count Universe, Cami James and Nadia Napreychikov, swiftly voiced their outrage via an Instagram post the day following the event, stating, “We are obviously distraught, and this couldn't have come at a worse time as we are on our official last day of making the new collection, so we are trying our best to rise above and stay focused.”
Also weighing in on the debacle was quirky NYC-based retailer VFiles, who played a essential role in garnering widespread exposure for the label. Taking to Twitter, the store’s founder, Julie Anne Quay, asserted, “At VFILES we understand inspiration comes from many places and fashion in all its forms is a collaborative process between passionate and talented people. Taking another person’s work, recreating it and saying it is yours is not right.”
Rick’s Human Backpacks
Strike numéro trois for the Dark Lord. Rick’s SS16 womenswear show really took the cake for 2015, proving that each of the designer's catwalk stunts seems to surpass the next. Owens instructed models to strut down the catwalk with other models clinging to their backs, strapped upside-down with arms and legs dangling like some sort of accessory - human backpacks if you will - while wearing pieces from his monastic SS16 collection.
“In the Spring men’s collection which shares the same name (Cyclops), that focussed vision was propulsive and aggressive,” Owens explained. “When applied to women’s, I see that focussed vision being more about nourishment, sisterhood/motherhood and regeneration…Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons.” No word as to how many chiropractor bills the designer received afterwards, however.
Miley and Terry Come Full Circle
Just when you thought Miley Cyrus couldn’t bite harder on the Mickey Mouse ear-wearing hand that formerly fed her, well, she did. Until now, we’ve only really seen glimpses (generous ones, mind you) of Miley’s bits - the most revealing being the nude PAPERMAG editorial she starred in where most of her nether regions were covered by beads, flowers and other crafty objects. But 2015 officially christened the singer as a full-fledged “parental advisory” poster child.
Shot by fellow PTA nightmare Terry Richardson, the gruesome twosome whipped up an editorial for offbeat gender-bending fashion magazine CANDY that celebrated the female form - which, in Terry and Miley terms, basically translates to porn. The photos marked Miley’s most explicit ones to date and displayed the singer in a series of salacious setups including posing completely naked with a cat, dressing up as a man of the law while sucking on a baton and frisking with a strap-on. While we surely saw it coming, we can help but wonder how Miley will top this one (aside from releasing a sex tape).
For more end of year content, take a look at The 10 Biggest Trends of 2015, The 10 Biggest Streetwear Moments of the Past Decade and vote for your favorite brands, collaborations and retailers in our annual Highsnobiety Crowns awards.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.