Volume 75, Number 39 | February 15 -21 2006

Villager photo by Sara G. Levin

A model at Apollo Braun’s fashion show at the Puck Building. Some of the other models carried enlarged pictures of a cartoon that has sparked violent protests by Muslims in Europe.

Cartoon Mohammed takes a turn on the catwalk at designer’s show

By Sara G. Levin

Flaunting an “I Love N.Y.” jumpsuit at the Puck Building Friday night, designer Apollo Braun mixed erotic fashion and politics in his most recent runway show. As male and female models strutted down the catwalk bedecked in colorful styles and sporting eccentric touches like parrot hair clips, some models held the provocative Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed above their heads.

There was a minimal reaction to the images by audience members; some seemed surprised and raised eyebrows, but others just watched. With camerapersons from various publications at the foot of the catwalk, many onlookers seemed more overwhelmed by the blatant sexuality displayed by the models and Braun, who sang about sex while the runway models bared their breasts and swayed their hips without restraint.

The night’s brazen atmosphere lived up to Braun’s reputation as a designer of in-your-face, naughty street wear. Stars like Britney Spears and Bjork have been known to buy from Braun’s collection at his Orchard St. boutique. In some ways his attempt to draw attention to a controversial issue such as the cartoons seemed in step with Braun’s rebellious, attention-seeking attitude, but it also struck a chord much closer to home.

Bruan, who grew up in Israel, said that some of his best friends are Muslim, but that terrorists are “animals.” “I am from Israel, I know how radical those radicals can be, but you can’t be afraid to live,” he said.

Speaking about terrorists of Muslim background, Braun added, “They will kill me anyway. I’m bisexual, an artist and American. In Iran there are cartoons against America every day.” He added that he thinks the images should be shown in mainstream American media outlets.

A voluptuous burlesque dancer who identified herself as Dirty Martini was one of the women who held a poster depicting Mohammed standing before a line of tattered men at the entrance to heaven above the caption “Stop stop we ran out of virgins!”

“Even in fashion, where nobody takes a [political] stance, we can express ourselves,” Martini said. “In my line of business, you learn your rights and about freedom of speech.”

Throughout the night, three models were chosen to hold the cartoons. Two of them toted the same image and the other displayed a drawing of Mohammed with horns growing out of his turban. When all the models lined up for the finale most of them were encouraged to smile and appear to be having fun. Everyone swept across the stage smiling, except a woman holding a cartoon above her head. She was reportedly told by an organizer not to remain stern. Braun announced that his next T-shirt will say, “The president of Iran is an impotent.”

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