Responding to a backlash against the use of seemingly racist oversized lips and ears at a fashion show this month, the Fashion Institute of Technology has placed two administrators on leave.

Earlier this month, the graduate program's fashion show featured models wearing bright red oversized lips and what appear to be monkey ears, evoking racist caricatures of Black people seen throughout American history. Mary Davis, the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and Jonathan Kyle Farmer, the Chair of the MFA Fashion Design Department, have been placed on leave while an external law firm conducts an investigation into what transpired, according to a statement from the school.

"Currently, it does not appear that the original intent of the design, the use of accessories or the creative direction of the show was to make a statement about race; however, it is now glaringly obvious that has been the outcome," FIT President Joyce Brown wrote in a statement last week. "For that, we apologize—to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw."

Brown urged the fashion community to hold the university responsible, rather than the recent alum Junkai Huang, whose collection featured the accessories. Brown planned to write a series of apology letters, hold meetings with faculty and students, and schedule a town hall with FIT students.

Huang, who moved to the U.S. from China in 2017, said his idea was to emphasize body features that should be "celebrated and embraced," inspired by feelings about his crooked finger, he told the Times.

Accessories he originally made from fabric were too small to be seen from the audience, and running out of time to meet the deadline, now-suspended administrator Farmer recommended Huang purchase the oversized lips and ears from Amazon, according to the Times.

"Junkai has said, and his thesis notes and sketches support, that the collection he designed and produced was not aimed at invoking or provoking racial implications," Brown said in her statement. "It also appears—based upon information available—that the styling and accessorizing used in the show were provided to him rather than chosen at his discretion. To us, this indicates that those in charge of and responsible for overseeing the show failed to recognize or anticipate the racist references and cultural insensitivities that were obvious to almost everybody else."

The public backlash began when 25 year old model Amy Lefevre, who is Black, refused to wear the accessories at the February 7th show.

"I stood there almost ready to break down, telling the staff that I felt incredibly uncomfortable with having to wear these pieces and that they were clearly racist," Lefevre told the Post. (She did not immediately respond to an emailed request for an interview.)

FIT did not answer questions about whether others would be placed on leave, but confirmed Farmer and Davis are being paid during their suspension.

"We believe this investigation will help provide clarity and transparency regarding other questions that have been raised in a reasonable timeline," the school said in an email to Gothamist. "It will also enable us to analyze the current protocols that we have and see where we need to make improvements."

According to the Times, Farmer said on Instagram: "It was never our intent for the show’s styling to be interpreted as racist or to make people feel uncomfortable, but I now fully understand why this has happened." (His Instagram account is now private.)

Davis told the Times she didn't know of the accessories until she saw the show. "I have always taken full responsibility for those matters that are my responsibility, however, I should not be held accountable or blamed for not stopping actions/activity that I did not know existed," she said.

The oversized lips and ears were used in the fashion show days after a "landmark" settlement between Prada and the City of New York for blackface imagery use by the brand, which the Human Rights Commission found "evoked images of Sambo, a caricature that, over generations, has been used to mock and dehumanize Black people." The commission's spokesperson described the settlement as "groundbreaking," in which a locality has required the implementation of various diversity and racial equity initiatives at an international corporation.

The fashion industry has been forced to reckon with several racist missteps. To name a few: Dolce & Gabbana's ads depicting stereotypes about Chinese people; Dior's perfume called "Sauvage" (or, "savage" in English, a slur against Native Americans) advertised in a video with a Native American in traditional clothes dancing; and Gucci's infamous blackface sweater.

This article has been updated with additional comment from FIT.