By Julissa Catalan
Jean Touitou—the founder of French fashion label A.P.C.—is under fire after using the N-word during the presentation of APC’s fall 2015 men’s collection in Paris on Sunday.
While four male models modeled trench coats, sweatpants and A.P.C.-designed Timberland boots, Touitou stood alongside them holding a sign that read, “Last Ni##@$ IN PARIS.”
Touitou even repeated the racist phrase during his speech.
“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,” Touitou told the crowd.
Style.com reported that the audience laughed nervously during his explanation.
“Oh, I am glad some people laughed with me,” Touitou said. “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.”
Apparently, Touitou thought he got a get-out-of-jail-free card from the Black community because he designs clothes for “the ghetto.”
“One hip-hop song is called ‘N****s in Paris.’ One movie is called ‘Last Tango in Paris.'” Touitou later explained to Style.com via email.
“I made looks which are a crossover of those two references: The Timberland shoes and the sweat pants are iconic of hip-hop, and the camel-hair-color coat, worn with nothing under it, is iconic of that precise movie.”
He also name-dropped past collaborator Kanye West as further validation that he is allowed to use the slur.
“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 an homage to our friendship. 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'”
Perhaps Kanye West is all right with this, but Timberland CEO Stewart Whitney is not.
On Wednesday, Timberland announced that it would be dissolving its partnership with A.P.C., issuing the following statement:
“Yesterday we became aware of the offensive remarks made by Jean Touitou during his APC Fall Menswear show in Paris. We have chosen to immediately terminate our involvement with the APC brand, including the footwear collaboration we had planned for this fall. Simply stated, this kind of language and approach is in complete contrast with our values. Timberland seeks to collaborate with designers and brands who are at the forefront of lifestyle trends; equally important, they must also share our values. We will not tolerate offensive language or racial slurs of any kind being associated with the Timberland brand.”
On Thursday, Touitou issued an apology, saying: “When describing our brand’s latest collaboration, I spoke recklessly, using terms that were both ignorant and offensive. I apologize and am deeply regretful for my poor choice of words, which are in no way a reflection of my personal views.”