Top New Zealand designer Trelise Cooper is in the firing line after the eyes of models were taped back in what appears to be an imitation of Asian features.

At least 10 models, including New Zealand's Next Top Model's first season runner-up Laura Scaife, had the skin around their eyes stretched back with clear tape to create a look further exaggerated by dramatic eye make-up during Fashion Week.

The controversial look hit the catwalk in the same week Japanese Vogue was criticised for running behind-the-scenes shots of designer Anna Dello Russo tightening model Crystal Renn's eyes with tape.

Cooper did not respond to the Herald on Sunday's repeated requests for comment.


Senior lecturer at the School of Asian Studies at the University of Auckland, Richard Phillips, said it was insulting to Asians, who were sometimes teased for their almond-shaped eyes.

"People still do this [teasing] at school with fingers going Chinese, Japanese and pulling their eyes up," Phillips said.

He questioned why Cooper didn't hire Asian models if she wanted oriental-looking women.

"I would strongly say you should use the person appropriate for the role; you don't need to borrow someone else who has different characteristics and alter them."

A Taiwanese designer at MisteR, Mickey Lee, said the models looked beautiful but she hoped Cooper did not intend to mock her culture.

However she said it could be seen as a compliment to Asian women, who had been trying to look more like Westerners for many years.