This designer wore a far-right paramilitary outfit at Paris Fashion Week
Paris Fashion Week is no stranger to tactless and tasteless designs, and this year was no different as Indonesia’s most controversial influencer-creator was spotted sporting a genocide-inspired haircut while hanging out with the likes of Kanye Westdesigner Rick Owen and his wife and muse Michèle Lamy.
Arnold Putra, a man who once fashioned a purse made of human boneswas photographed last weekend wearing a black and orange camouflage jacket with hat and pants – the colors of the Indonesian paramilitary organization Pancasila Youth. The clothes also bore the far-right band’s emblem, and at one point Arnold donned black leather gloves and a Balenciaga waistcoat with more emblems.
The group once led death squads for the Indonesian military during anti-communist purges overseen by far-right nationalist military leader Suharto, which saw between 500,000 and 1.2 million people killed between 1965 and 1966. Chinese-Indonesians were a particular target. Taking place at the height of the Cold War, the massacres were tacitly supported by the United States, keen to stem the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.
“They were terrible, horrible and brutal,” said London-based Indonesian author and scholar Soe Tjen Marching, noting that the era is a “very painful and unresolved” chapter in the country’s history.
“These [were people who] took part in the massacres and were responsible for atrocities like murder, rape and maiming and were always allowed to flee freely,” she told VICE World News. “Their impacts can still be seen and felt even today in the stigmatization of survivors and victims, as well as harmful racism and discrimination between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Arnold regularly courts controversy for his antics, who saw it mock native tribes in some of the most remote villages in the world. His stunts include lack of respect for funeral rituals and offering the villagers fake designer items in exchange for human remains.
But it was his most infamous act – designing a purse said to be made of alligator tongues and a “human spine”, which he claimed was “ethically sourced”. – which propelled Arnold to infamy in 2020. He has since claimed to use “albino skin”. and “plastinated human remains” in her fashion line.
Through a series of Instagram Stories posted to his account on Saturday, Arnold shared photos of his latest provocative outfit and encounters with celebrities, many of whom seemed oblivious to the uniform’s troubling roots. In a photo, we saw him sitting on a sofa with Kanye West and his new girlfriend, actress Julia Fox, alongside rapper Pusha T and Michèle Lamy. He even enjoyed personal time with Lamy and her beau Owens, famous for his gothic aesthetic.
But the outfit’s biggest endorsement came from the far-right group, which remains active today and, in the critically acclaimed 2012 documentary The act of killingreportedly had three million members.
“With him wearing our uniform, Arnold Putra brought the Pancasila ideology to the world.”
Aulia Arief, leader of Pancasila Youth, thanked Arnold Putra and praised her outfit, expressing the group’s joy at being featured at a global event like Paris Fashion Week.
“With him wearing our uniform, Arnold Putra brought the Pancasila ideology to the world”, Aulia written in a statement Monday on behalf of the group. He even invited Arnold to visit their party headquarters in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
“Once again, our members of Pancasila Youth [extend] our appreciation to Arnold Putra. Our uniform is now a [trendy] street style.
Arnold posts quirky drawings and bizarre photoshoot scenes to his Instagram, but not much else is known about him aside from his wealthy family background. Indonesian fashion designers told VICE World News that while “enviable”, Arnold’s rise to the top was built on privilege and controversy.
“It’s not every day that an Indonesian designer [time] with fashion heavyweights like Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy, but when they do, they’re wearing an outfit like Arnold Putra’s that celebrates the worst of our country,” said a bag designer from Bali, who has declined to be named in this story because she didn’t I don’t want her brand associated with “anything Arnold Putra.”
It is unclear whether Arnold designed and created the controversial Pancasila Youth outfit, or wore another fashion house’s creation. VICE World News asked him about his choice of clothes at Paris Fashion Week. He responded to messages but did not respond to questions about his outfit.
lamy too shared photos of Arnold on his Instagram account, prompting criticism from many Indonesians. On Twitter, Indonesian users lamented the lack of international awareness of the atrocities and demanded that Arnold be held accountable.
“Why didn’t people who were at Paris Fashion Week say anything? It’s shocking.
Soe Tjen also pointed to the international ignorance of the Indonesian genocide when explaining the lack of outrage. “The world reacted [condemningly] when Prince Harry wore this Nazi soldier costume. Why didn’t people who were at Paris Fashion Week say anything? It’s shocking,” she said.
But she pointed to Arnold’s “ignorance” as a product of the wider cultural context of Indonesia, where the atrocities of the 1960s remain a highly taboo and undiscussed subject.
“His ignorance reflects the politicians of our country anyway, many of whom have yet to condemn the events of 1965,” she said.
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