Lately it seems as if there is always one cultural insensitivity or the other to apologize for in the fashion world.
Most recently, a Belgian designer, Walter Van Beirendonck has been praised for his not so subtle dig at Karl Lagerfeld following a Chanel pre-show in Dallas that showcased a controversial Native American headdresses as one of its pieces.Van Beirendonck sent a model onstage with a similar headdress as showcased by Chanel but inscribed his with red ink that screamed “Stop Racism”. The American-Native American fashion sensitivity also occurred in 2012 when a Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss wore a hugely exaggerated Native American headdress with a fringed leather bikini at one of their shows. This seemed inappropriate because of the cultural disrespect towards Native American women and Victoria’s Secrets had to apologize and cut out that part from future screenings of the show.
It seems we continue to hash out this issue and according to Tara Conley, Founder of Media Make Change it is one of two things, either people really don’t care about the outbursts or they are too naive and think that it doesn’t matter – and what we have to do is continue talking about it till someone listens.
Yes, cultures would always influence each other and be a reason for certain inspirations but I think people have to always be aware that, as with everything in life, there is a limit to which you can go in matters that concern other people. We’ve seen people even take this cultural insensitivity out of fashion and into the real world.
Remember when actress Julianne Hough went for Hallowen with a black painted face because she wanted to dress as Nigerian born actress Uzo Aduba who acts as Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black series.
It’s hard to say why the fashion industry continues to collide with this issue, and it has gotten to a point where I feel apologies are not just enough. 2013 was filled with outbursts about cultural insensitivity and it seems we have dragged it on into 2014. We did a post recently on an “African Urban Vision” editorial by Vogue Accessory, and where it is always a pleasure for African culture to be positively recognized by international brands, I was disturbed most of the day yesterday by the question, “Why couldn’t they have used a black model instead of painting a Caucasian one with “tribal representation” or whatever?”
There can never be a shortage of black models or Native American models. There can never be a shortage of ideas that DO NOT have to border on cultural insensitivity. So why do we keep coming back here, waiting for a public apology?
Why is this even something we have to keep pointing out? Do we have to wait till yet another magazine decides it would be a good idea to make a Caucasian model look African for an African inspired fashion editorial?Even Beyonce has had her face painted black in an African inspired editorial for L’officel back in 20111, and it doesn’t make it right when a black woman has her face painted either.
Is there no end to this madness? We’ve had too many apologies from Vogue Netherlands, Numero, L’officel, and Vogue Paris, and the truth about cultural insensitivity is it is no longer enough to apologize. There is a difference between cultural influence and cultural insensitivity and I wish designers, fashion photographers and even the unconsciously accepting audience would understand this.
What are your thoughts on cultural insensitivity in fashion?