By Jessica Frost
Even as I begin writing this, thoughts are racing through my mind about how my opinion could be perceived as offensive. How I could be labelled as just another privileged white female who has her head so far up her bleached butt, that she is completely out of touch with the world. All that and I haven’t even started the story.
It just goes to show how much of a hot topic cultural appropriation has been lately with just about anything that depicts an ethnic or non-white cultural tradition used in fashion being questioned. I think it’s a topic that’s important to talk about but as I read the hundreds of comments reprimanding Marc Jacobs for having his models wear multi-coloured dreads on the runway I have to ask- are we being too sensitive about cultural appropriation?
From high-end fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen to attendees at Coachella, it seems no-one is immune to criticism over adapting elements of non-white cultures into their designs or outfits. Kylie Jenner has been reprimanded for her choice to wear corn row style braids and even more high profile was Victoria’s Secret 2016 runway show. No stranger to controversy, the brands most recent show found them in hot water over the use of a Chinese Dragon, embroidery, flames and colours depicting the Chinese culture’s traditional dress and New Year’s celebrations.
The lines are thin and blurred around the whole topic but it feels like the term ‘Cultural Appropriation’ is being thrown around more and more liberally as stories continue to gain more traction in the global media. No doubt there’s a need to be respectful and appreciative of cultures that aren’t your own, whether they are a minority or not, but when did it become so wrong to take inspiration from the world around you?
If the fashion industry begins to remove those inspirations they seek from various ethnicities and cultural groups from their work, don’t we risk missing out on a chance to celebrate something unique and different? I have no doubt that if it were to happen, there would be just as much of a media storm about white washing and the lack of diversity in the industry as there is about cultural appropriation now.
I do want to stress that there’s a right and wrong way to take inspiration from a culture but seriously, when you’ve got someone being criticised for wearing a bandana and red lipstick because they aren’t of Mexican or Latin American heritage, it must leave you with a few confused questions.
When is it ok for a brand or person to take inspiration from another culture? Are we deciding as a society that only models of the inspired ethnicity can model culturally appropriated fashion? We have no problem writing books about dressing like a Parisian so why is it wrong to take cues from Harajuku style? So. Many. Questions.
I don’t think there’ll even be any answers to clear the fogginess surrounding the issue. For now, I think it’s important to be respectful and appreciative whilst continuing to seek inspiration from wherever you can find it. No matter what, someone will always have a problem with anything and if it gets a few clicks onto a news story, then we’ll continue to be too sensitive about it.