For Italian Designer, Use of Swastika Backfires

Associated Press

Fashion turned political once again this week when Italian designer Francesco Barbaro faced harsh criticism from Jewish groups for using the swastika as the theme for his fashion collection presented last week in Rome.

"The use of the swastika is not only tasteless and offensive but it may also encourage racist and anti-Semitic behavior by neo-Nazi groups," said Fiona Macaulay, a spokeswoman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The 26-year-old designer from southern Italy, who dressed stern-looking catwalk models in military-style clothes daubed with swastikas, said he was attempting to ridicule the fashion world, not glorify the symbol associated with Nazi Germany.

He said, "I wanted to attack the pretentious side of the fashion world and the fashion victim who is even willing to wear a tragic symbol like the swastika just to keep up with the latest fashions from the designer of the moment."

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