Top Kiwi fashion designer responds to backlash over 'racist' poster

A poster from Annah Stretton's 2014 NZ Fashion Week campaign. Photo: Supplied
A poster from Annah Stretton's 2014 NZ Fashion Week campaign. Photo: Supplied
Kiwi fashion designer Annah Stretton has spoken out after accusations a poster advertising her clothes showed models in "racist" make-up.

The ad on Wellington's Hunter St displays Stretton herself alongside two women of colour in make-up, emphasising their lips and eyes, in an image from Fashion Week 2014.

Text on the poster reads: "Most people will tell you what you can't do. I am only interested in what I can do."

The poster became the subject of some debate after photos of it were shared to Twitter.

"Is that blackface?" one user asked.

"Annah Stretton is bizarre at the best of times but this, spotted in Wellington is ..." another commented along with facepalm emojis.

Stretton told the Herald, "I can understand that out of context the image may be difficult for some in light of Black Lives Matter and other ongoing positive (global and national) changes to what is acceptable and what is not, in current day.

"The image is due to be changed and will be actioned in the next few days."

AUT social sciences associate professor Dr Camille Nakhid told Stuff the "ignorant" poster portrayed the models as "caricatures", saying that people of colour shouldn't have parts of their anatomy exaggerated for "art".

"To emphasise the women's eyes and lips with the text, just shows the designer's ignorance. As a fashion designer she has a lot of power and money to pay the models to do what she asks them to do. I think she's very much aware she's pulling the shots. It's very ignorant if she doesn't recognise her power.

"Any thinking person in 2020 will see that poster as a caricature of people of colour and its resemblance to golliwogs."

Golliwog dolls have been increasingly seen to symbolise racism, with white-rimmed eyes, over-the-top red lips and frizzy hair.

Earlier this year, a Dunedin dairy removed golliwog dolls from its shelves after facing backlash online.

Willowbank Dairy had reportedly been selling golliwogs for six months, but removed them at the request of a group of students.

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