NYFW’s inclusion of Uzbeki scion Gulnara Karimova for the second year in a row has been causing a bit of controversy in certain human rights-y circles this week. You see, although she may look cute on the outside, she’s part of a regime that’s been accused of some of the worst human rights abuses of our time. Her father, Islam Karimov, has often come under fire from the international community for horrific practices like torture, censorship, holding fake elections, making a bunch of people “disappear,” and, oh yeah, boiling one of his political enemies alive.
But how is any of this her fault, you ask? Because she abuses her position of power in a multitude of ways, from pretending to be a pop star (she goes by GooGoosha!) to exploiting child labor. “Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way,” reads a cable from Wikileaks. “She remains the single most hated person in the country.” Besides being involved in her father’s regime (which affords her diplomatic status) and quite possibly with the Russian mafia as well, Karimova’s fashion line is directly implicated in human rights abuses. I’m pretty sure whatever environmental props she gets for using “local” cotton are rendered null and void by the fact that said cotton was picked by 14-year-olds forced to work in the fields instead of going to school. Indeed, many U.S. retailers including H&M, The Gap, Macy’s and Walmart are currently boycotting cotton from Uzbekistan. You know you’re in trouble when Walmart thinks you’re evil.
Because nobody in fashion reads the boring “international” section of the paper, this is news to a lot of people. “We’re horrified by the human-rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and hope that the attention Human Rights Watch generates is able to effect change in the country,” IMG, the company producing her show, told The New York Post. “We also hope to work hand-in-hand with Human Rights Watch during Fashion Week and beyond to challenge those in power in Uzbekistan to take action immediately.” Despite all of this, the show will go on. Insert joke about the parallels between fascism and fashion here!