Fans came to the defense of fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson after Kanye West called her out on Instagram for criticizing his “White Lives Matter” t-shirts.
On Monday, West sparked a backlash when he appeared at his Yeezy SZN 9 show in Paris wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “White Lives Matter.” He later sent models down the runway wearing T-shirts bearing the same slogan, before posing for photos with controversial conservative figure Candace Owens, who also wore the T-shirt.
As pointed out by the TDA (Anti-Defamation League), “White Lives Matter” is a “white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement.” Supporters of former President Donald Trump also use that phrase frequently.
After the show, Karefa-Johnson, creative director of the magazine garage and Global Contributing Editor of fashion, condemned West’s use of the phrase in his Instagram stories. She posted video of a model walking down the runway in the t-shirt and wrote, “…Here comes the buzz…”
“I am enraged… I will organize my thoughts… indefensible behavior.”
In a follow-up post, Karefa-Johnson included a screenshot of a message she had sent to a friend about using the slogan, stating that West is “not fully aware of the difference between owning BLM [Black Lives Matter] and subverting the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, worn by Trump and his supporters.
According to the journalist, she realized how the infamous red cap, when worn by West, became a “release”. She also claimed to understand West’s intent with the shirts, noting that she was “trying to illustrate a dystopian world in the future where whiteness could become extinct or at least be in enough danger to demand to be defended.”
However, he said the concept “didn’t get across” and was “deeply offensive, violent and dangerous.”
In another screenshot of messages she had sent, Karefa-Johnson also claimed that West was “grossly irresponsible” in suggesting “the idea that white supremacy is in danger of extinction.”
In a follow-up post to her Instagram stories, Karefa-Johnson clarified that her thoughts on West’s show weren’t “some sort of distorted justification” for the t-shirts, before noting that there is “no excuse” for the rapper’s behavior. .
“Please understand: it wasn’t. The shirts this man conceived, produced and shared with the world are pure violence,” he wrote. “There is no excuse, there is no art here.”
West appeared to react to Karefa-Johnson’s comments on her own Instagram on Tuesday. She shared a screenshot of her Instagram profile on her page and, in another post, the Yeezy designer appeared to mock the journalist’s looks and fashion sense to 17.9 million followers. her. He shared a photo of Karefa-Johnson with the caption, “This is not a fashion person. If you talk about Ye, I’ll talk about you. Ask Trevor Noah (sic).”
In a third post about Karefa-Johnson, the rapper posted a close-up photo of her shoes, along with a caption hinting that the editor-in-chief of fashionAnna Wintour, “hates these boots.”
It is noteworthy that Karefa-Johnson became the first black woman to design a cover for fashion in 2020. She later styled Vice President Kamala Harris for her own cover as well as the cover of fashion by Gigi Hadid.
West’s posts have received mixed, though mostly negative, reactions. Many condemned the rapper’s behavior and accused him of “racism” and misogyny.
“If Gabriella Karefa-Johnson’s outfit was worn by Bella Hadid, he would claim it’s revolutionary. Kanye hates black people and fat people too. Kanye is a basic fatphobic racist misogynist,” one person tweeted.
Another said: “Gabriella granted Kanye far more grace than he deserved in the first place, it’s just disgusting coming from him.”
“So repulsive to see Kanye West spending his time/Instagram shredding Gabriella Karefa-Johnson considering how careful she was to dig into the statement he made at her show,” someone else wrote.
West also appeared to face backlash from his peers for his harassment of Karefa-Johnson, as he shared a screenshot of a text he apparently received from fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi. In the post, Ogunlesi shared her disapproval of the posts.
“I also don’t think you should insult that writer. In fact, you could have a real conversation about the shirt, “says the text.
Hadid also reportedly condemned the rapper’s behavior towards Karefa-Johnson, with the supermodel writing in the comments of West’s Instagram post: “You wish you had a percentage of his intellect. You have no idea haha…. If there’s actually a dot behind any of your shit. She could be the only person who could save you. Do you think that the ‘honor’ of being invited to your parade is going to prevent someone from giving her opinion? LOL. You are a bully and a joke”, according to AND! News.
Karefa-Johnson was far from the only person to criticize West for his use of the catchphrase during the Yeezy runway show. She also faced negative public reactions from supermodel Linda Evangelista and the actor and rapper Jaden Smith.
West addressed the backlash over the t-shirts in another post shared on her Instagram story, and wrote: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. No problem”.
The Independent contacted Karefa-Johnson and a West representative for comment.