Sometimes, no matter how black your best friend may be, you need to stay in your lane. This is a lesson Jean Touitou is about to learn. The designer presented his Fall 2015 men’s collection, announcing his collaboration with Timberland, but not before offending probably more than a few people in the room. As he showed his wares, he introduced a look he likes to call “Last N***as in Paris.” If the name alone made you do a record scratch in your head, you’re not the only one. Style.com writer Luke Leitch recounts the very uncomfortable moment in the presentation:
“I call this one look Last N****s in Paris. Why? Because it’s the sweet spot when the hood—the ‘hood—meets Bertolucci’s movie Last Tango in Paris. So that’s ‘N****s in Paris’ and Last N****s in Paris. [Nervous laughter from audience.] Oh, I am glad some people laughed with me. Yes, I mean, it’s nice to play with the strong signifiers. The Timberland here is a very strong ghetto signifier. In the ghetto, it is all the Timberlands, all the big chain. Not at the same time—never; it’s bad taste. So we designed Timberlands with Timberland…”
Wait, when did Touitou become so well-versed on hood fashion, much less what is in good or bad taste on the streets? Could it have been his childhood growing up in Edenwald Houses in the North Bronx? Oh, wait — seems like it’s just because he has a black friend.
“I am friends with Kanye [West, who recorded ‘Ni**as in Paris’ with Jay Z], and he and I presented a joint collection at the same place, one year ago, and that this thing is only a homage to our friendship,” he told Style.com in an email. “As a matter of fact, when I came up with this idea, I wrote to him, with the picture of the look and the name I was giving to it, and he wrote back immediately saying something like, ‘I love this vibe.'”
Kanye what have you done? Besides the fact that it’s completely inappropriate for Touitou to use that word, that he claims to be an arbiter of taste for a certain style of dress in which he has no experience is confusing at best, but not as much as saying he has a right to use an offensive word because his famous black friend said it was OK. Fashion people should know better and not hide behind the “it’s trendy” excuse. Touitou, we love your clothes, but please refrain from talking about black folks in Paris unless you are going to refer to them in a more dignified manner.
Oh, and we think Timbs and chains look totally hot together.