Dear… (A Comprehensive Look At The Most Questionable Moments in Fashion)

As a lover of fashion, I’m well aware the often times, many designers veer into the cringe-worthy territory of problematic life choices. Recently, the Novella team sat down for a brainstorming session on some new weekly pieces we could all bring to the boardroom table. Among the friendly banter and ideas being thrown around, we came up with an interesting concept. Why not call out those within the fashion industry that need a little slap on the wrist. In the end, we came up with the concept of Dear… Where I have the wonderful privilege of being able to discuss (and tear apart) some of fashion’s most epic nose dives for all of our reader’s gossip needs. So without further adieu, here’s fashion’s Hot Goss.

Dear Marc Jacobs…

The question we’re all asking after New York fashion week isn’t whether or not you’re one of the most talented and influential designers in the world, instead, we’re all asking why you seem to focus all of your design talents on making collections that are essentially culturally appropriative marching parades. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve made some jaw-dropping collections in the past. Louis Vuitton Spring 2012, Spring 2003, and Louis Vuitton fall 2011 all come to mind. So I know he has the potential of creating collections that are beyond beautiful, so why is that Mr Jacobs has been insistent on creating collections that take vital aspects of minorities cultures, specifically black traditions and culture. There really is something inappropriate about placing women who aren’t women of colour in dreadlock wigs or 70’s and 80’s Harlem inspired clothing. This subtle borrowing of black cultural without having black designers assist in the design process is just careless in the fact that a designer, no matter how experienced the designer may be, will never know the personal experience of the culture they’re borrowing from unless they were born into that culture or grew up in that culture.

However, Mr Jacobs seems to look past the complaints of those around him and continues to push the boundary on what is acceptable as inspiration and what is full blown appropriation. Recently, for his last show in New York, Jacobs focused all of his design talents on creating a collection fit an elegant woman of colour. Sadly, the collection had only a handful of black women walk the show. Which wouldn’t seem out of the norm in the fashion industry, but it’s extremely unsettling to see so little black women walk a show where the models are dressed in African inspired prints and head wraps that resemble those worn by African and African-American women. Now to some, it may not seem like such a big deal, however, when a show includes models like Kendal Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Taylor Hill wearing traditionally styled Gele and Ankara headdresses worn by women from countries like Ghana and Nigeria, it becomes extremely problematic because those specific headdresses are seen as foreign and are often gawked at by westerners. But when white models sport them it then becomes fashionable and trendy. The same can be said for his collections that featured heavy hip-hop inspirations and dreadlocks. On one hand, “urban” clothing and dreadlocks are worn by black men and women every day and it’s seen as ghetto and lower class, but when people outside of a traditional black environment decide to grow their hair into dreadlocks or wear clothing heavily inspired by black culture. It then becomes extremely forward thinking and ambitious.

What the moral of this entire gong show is, is that Marc Jacobs should look into the social consequences caused by the appropriation of culture, especially that of black culture in the United States. And then look into the global repercussions of appropriating the cultures of minorities around the world are before creating collections that are culturally and socially insensitive.Remember Mr Jacobs,

Remember Mr Jacobs, black women were laughed at and made the butt of the joke for taking pride and wearing their Gele’s and headwraps in public for decades now. Making them feel as if they shouldn’t be wearing their traditional cultural dress outside of their own country and making them feel shame and embarrassment for doing so. So why make it harder for black women (and all POC who takes pride in dressing in their homeland’s traditional garb) by making them feel as if the one thing they have to take pride on, isn’t even their own anymore. Because someone else can buy and be praised for it, while they get shunned and mocked for it.

Sincerely,

Chris Zaghi

 

WTF Wayhome, Ouch Osheaga: Let’s Discuss Cultural Appropriation

I think it’s important for people to check themselves. Is your speech, behaviour, attire, or accessories offensive in some way? If you’re unsure, the answer is probably, Yes.

I was really fortunate this summer and I was able to experience two major music festivals, the Wayhome Music & Arts Festival in Ore Medonte, just outside Barrie, Ontario, and the Osheaga Festival of Music and Art in Montreal, Quebec. Attending these two festivals affirmed my love for my fellow Canadians and the ways in which music can be used as medium to bring people together. I met so many amazing people during my time at these festivals, like-minded individuals from all over Canada (and other parts of the world) who were looking to enjoy their favorite artists and have a good time.

On the other hand, there was one really big issue that I couldn’t get past. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a one time occurrence but several instances in which I was extremely uncomfortable, and unable to understand why those around me didn’t share the same sentiments.

What really irked me throughout the festivals was the abundance of non-POC individuals donning culturally significant items such as bindis, headdresses, cornrows, dreadlocks, dashikis, warpaint, etc. I could go on forever.

WHAT IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION? 

The definition of cultural appropriation is pretty simple: cultural appropriation is the use of a certain culture by members of another culture wherein the meaning or significance of these cultural ties are lost, misappropriated, and is disrespectful to the culture that it is originally from. Considering this, it’s pretty simple to understand that non-POC individuals, aka white people, are taking advantage of a culture when using it as a part of their costume at a music event.

Cultural appropriation is by no means a new concept, and, this far into the year 2017, I hoped to see changes from past years in which music festivals almost seemed as though they were breeding grounds for white dudes in cornrows and white girls in bindis. It saddens me that this is still a thing.

WHY DOES CULTURAL APPROPRIATION STILL HAVE A PLACE IN OUR FESTIVAL VENUES? 

This question has plagued me for the past few years. How has there been no reform to what people are allowed to wear at these festivals? More over, who perpetuates this trend or gives a “thumbs up” to these perpetrators before heading out the door?

There is a lot to be planned before heading to a festival, and a big part of that preparation is putting together an outfit and making accessory, hair, and makeup choices. Each year, I go through my overflowing closet in hopes of pairing together some makeshift ensemble that is cute and eye-catching and, most important, hasn’t been done before. While it may be hard to find that extra detail that will help make your look standout, I can assure you, it will not be found through the use of someone else’s culture. Do better.

From Alessandra Ambrosio‘s Instagram account. The post reads, “Becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece @jacquieaiche #feathers #festival #coachella #foreveronvacation #inspiration #cocar”
From Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account
From Vanessa Hudgens’s Instagram account. The post reads, “Coachella life. Day 2 =) xx”

Social media often becomes oversaturated with the misuse of culture by the wrong demographic of individuals around festival season, (as seen above) so if the affirmation of a celebrity wearing such items becomes a confirmation for you to do the same if you are a non-POC, that is where we run into some trouble. One may ask, “if I see Kylie Jenner wearing such things, and she looks great, why can’t I?”

There is a long weighted history and discourse behind the argument that I am posing with this article, not all in which I can include. Instead, I am hoping to instead bring light to this topic, in the hopes that it sparks a greater debate between friends.

This is one of the ways that we can make a change.

WHAT DO MUSIC FESTIVALS LIKE WAYHOME AND OSHEAGA HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?

I did some research to see what I could dig up about the stance that certain festivals take on the issues I mentioned earlier. There was not a whole lot of information I could find, but, rather, a lot of great articles on the subject. Like I said earlier, I am not the first person to talk about this.

In the case of Wayhome and Osheaga, specifically, here is what I found. After scrolling through an “overview of festival rules” for Wayhome,  the only mention of clothing and/or accessory was through the bullet point stating:

  • No gang clothing and/or gang support shirts.

This bullet point appeared on the list twice. I am unclear as to what this is referring to or in what context Wayhome would qualify a shirt as “gang supporting,” but, nevertheless, I didn’t find another mention of clothing, accessory, or hairstyle. After scrolling further, I did find one more interesting bullet point, under the topic of “additional rules/regs”:

  • No confederate flags.

The fact that this was added to this list sends a red flag to me and really makes me interested in what event must have happened for the organizers to feel they must mention this. In Canada. In 2017. Either I am living in a fantasy world or there are bigger issues about what individuals are bringing to music festivals than I have ever imagined.

Osheaga on the other hand, was a little bit better. In 2015, the festival put a ban on the admittance of:

  • First Nations headdress and other feather headdresses

On their website, they specify that, “The First Nations Headdresses have a spiritual and cultural meaning in the native communities and to respect and honour their people, Osheaga asks fans and artists attending the festivals to not use this symbol as a fashion accessory.” 

This was really important. Osheaga was one of the first major music festivals to take a stand on cultural appropriation and to lend support to the Indigenous community of Canada by creating this rule.

SO… WHAT NOW? 

Here, my friends, we come to our final question: “What exactly can be done?” How would a music festival enforce these rules in practice? The fact is, it is impossible to police. There is no system that will be put in place that will not admit a white person because of a hairstyle or because they chose to wear a bindi.

This brings me full circle back to my frustration, and my understanding that the policing needs to begin within. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article: everyone needs to check themselves, and better yet, check your friends.

There is just no room for excuses. We all play our part, and as tough as a the world is, it’s important that your role in all of this is one that is as unproblematic as possible. There’s too much shit going on.

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