Designer Virgil Abloh under fire for ‘tone deaf’ Emmett Till mask in Naomi Osaka Vogue photoshoot

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Sunday 13 December 2020 13:22
Celebrities
(Getty Images)

A recent Vogue photoshoot featuring tennis star Naomi Osaka has come under fire for featuring a face mask with Emmett Till’s name on it.

The mask was designed by Virgil Abloh, the artistic director for menswear at Louis Vuitton. However, the mask in question is from his own label Off-White, which he founded in 2013 and serves as CEO of.

Earlier this year, Abloh faced controversy over publicising his $50 donation to the Black Lives Matter bail fund. People pointed out at the time that the amount in question would not even cover the cost of some of the cheapest items from his collection, and suggested he could have made a much more substantial donation.

His latest design has been accused of being “exploitative” and “tone deaf". Among other slogans emblazoned across the masks, the “Emmett Till” mask did not sit well with some people, who viewed it as an attempt to profit off the tragic death of a 14-year-old Black boy in 1955.

The backlash began when Abloh posted the image to his Instagram, which features alongside an interview with Osaka in January’s edition ofVogue US.

The comments on the post have been limited, but users popped over to Twitter to express their distaste for the design.

Abloh was accused of trying to profit off Till’s death, although it’s worth noting that at the time of writing the mask does not appear to be available on for sale on Off-White’s website.

Emmett Till was lynched in Mississipi in 1955 aged just 14, after he was accused of wolf-whistling at a white woman in a grocery store. The two men charged with Till’s kidnapping and murder were acquitted by an all-white jury. The high-profile case is considered a key catalyst in the civil rights movement. 

The official Twitter account for the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation replied to Osaka’s tweet featuring the image in question more positively than lots of followers, thanking her for keeping Till’s memory alive. It is unclear whether they were aware of Abloh’s involvement.

Neither Vogue nor Abloh nor Osaka have commented on the controversy as of yet. indy100 has reached out to Off-White and we’ll update you if we receive a response.

MORE: What does it mean to be Black in the fashion industry?

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