Russian fashion stars spark race row over N-word note

A Russian designer sparked a race row at Paris haute couture week Wednesday by using a racial slur in a card sent with flowers to a Moscow socialite.

Ulyana Sergeenko sent the roses to her friend Miroslava Duma to celebrate her show in the French capital on Tuesday.


Ulyana Sergeenko's note accompanying a bouquet of roses sent to her friend Miroslava Duma sparked a race row - AFP

Duma posted a photo of the bouquet to her 1.6 million Instagram followers which included the note quoting the title of a Kanye West and Jay-Z song, "Niggas in Paris".

"To my niggas in Paris," the card read.

But the post set off outrage on the social network, with supermodel Naomi Campbell calling out Sergeenko by tagging her and writing, "This better not be real."

Duma later removed the post and Sergeenko also pulled a long apology she posted Wednesday insisting that "my daughter is half Armenian, I have never divided people on white or black.

"Kanye West is one of my favourite musicians, and NP is one of my most favourite songs," she added.

West is married to television reality star Kim Kardashian, who has Armenian roots.

Nevertheless, the designer admitted that she does call her Russian friends by the N-word "when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it."

"Mira is a dear friend and even the fact that she so naively posted my private card on social media means that we meant nothing wrong," she added.

Duma later made a formal apology, saying, "The word is utterly offensive and I regret promoting it and am very sorry.

"I detest racism or discrimination of any kind," she added.

- Homophobic outburst -

However, the "It girl" was also pilloried in 2014 for posting a picture of Moscow art maven and oligarch Roman Abramovich's former partner Darya "Dasha" Zhukova sitting on a chair made from a lifelike, black semi-nude dominatrix.

The controversial "Chair" by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard -- the dummy is on her back with her knees against her chest, the seat of the chair resting against the backs of her legs -- mimicked intensely criticised work by British pop artist Allen Jones featuring a white mannequin.

Duma, 32, was also forced to apologise late Wednesday for homo- and transphobic comments she made to students in 2012 about fellow fashion blogger Bryanboy, as well as star transgender model Andrej Pejic.

"I am deeply ashamed" of the comments, she wrote on Instagram. "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.

"I have committed myself to a journey of personal growth," Duma insisted.

In her deleted post, Sergeenko said she had been shocked by the level of abuse she had been subjected to online. "I have certainly learned my lesson and I am grateful for it. There is enough anger in the world out there, please, can we stop it here?" she added.

While most Instagram users attacked both women, some Russian members of the social network defended them, saying the N-word does not carry the same connotations there.

"We have no other meaning for the word (in Russia)," one wrote, "only (the) fun street use meaning" friend.

"We had no black slavery in this country," she added.

However, The Tot, an online children's clothing and equipment site that Duma co-founded, sacked her from the board.

"We are deeply shocked by the offensive and racist post shared last night by Miroslava Duma during Paris Fashion Week," it said in a statement.

"Cultural reference or not, racism in any form is unacceptable, regardless of whether it's accidental or unintentional."

Copyright © 2018 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.

Fashion - Ready-to-wearPeople
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION