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.


Chris Zaghi


The Rebel and Canada’s Alt-Right

Around this time last year, when Trump winning the election seemed like an absurd possibility, many people made the brash claim that they were moving to Canada if he did ever win. Of course, when the results came in, most who said they would move had their bluffs called out and stayed put.

Most, but not all. And Canadians have certainly staked their claim as being the friendly Northern safe space, complete with free healthcare and a pretty prime minister. Cape Breton in Nova Scotia even advertised themselves as an option for Americans looking to flee Trump. American applications to my university, University of Toronto, increased by 70%. 

Most of us living here are probably aware that Canada isn’t exactly the paradise Americans make it out to be. We have the same legacy of colonialism as the US, had the same restrictive immigration quotas and internment camps and plenty of other examples of discrimination and oppression. And our present doesn’t look too bright either, with any number of examples from missing and murdered Indigenous women to racism right here in Toronto. Still, even with all that, it’s easy to think we’re at least a few steps up from the US. At least we don’t have the same wave of alt-right extremism, right? Wrong. And our own strain is getting harder and harder to ignore.

Enter The Rebel Media. A paradise for white-supremacists and Islamaphobes. Kind of like a maple-flavored Breitbart, with the same violent xenophobia and bigotry and lack of regard for journalistic standards, but their logo is red instead of orange. Also, they have some shady business practices, allegedly.

First, a brief history lesson for those who are unaware. The Rebel was co-founded in 2015 by Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley after working for several years as correspondents for the right-wing Sun News Network, which closed that same year. Since then, the Rebel has hired several well-known right-wing extremists in Canada and abroad.

The Rebel co-founder Brian Lilley

If you think I’m just some liberal snowflake/cultural Marxist/angry queer feminist/etc and I’m biased against The Rebel, I’d like to point out that Lilley, The Rebel’s own co-founder, said more or less the same thing after he left in August: “What The Rebel suffers from is a lack of editorial and behavioural judgment that left unchecked will destroy it and those around it. For that reason, I am leaving…I am not comfortable being associated with a group that…is being increasingly viewed as associated with the likes of Richard Spencer…I am also not comfortable with the increasingly harsh tone taken on issues like immigration, or Islam. There are ways to disagree on policy without resorting to us versus them rhetoric.” 

Lilley frames his criticism of his former company as if this is a new problem. But The Rebel has always been a haven for the bigots, and has never been one to shy away from promoting a story lacking evidence or truth in the name of their own viewpoint. In January, The Rebel feverishly promoted the conspiracy theory that the horrific shooting at a mosque in Quebec City was actually committed by Muslims (the current suspect, who has been charged with six counts of murder, is a white-supremacist) without any real evidence.

To be fair, following former contributer Faith Goldy’s coverage of the white supremacist rally in Charlottseville last month, in which she portrayed the white supremacists in the most sympathetic light possible, The Rebel promptly fired her. Additionally, following this, Levant reportedly issued a memo to staff asking them to distance themselves from the alt-right. 

Recently ousted Rebel contributor Faith Goldy

But quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter if The Rebel wants to avoid calling itself alt-right or even agrees to dismiss some of its more overtly racist contributors.

At the time of writing this article, The Rebel’s most recent stories included one about how Canada has a “border crisis” and is detaining Mexican nationals. The Rebel stated that Mexican refugee applicants to Canada has tripled since 2016, after tourist visa requirements for Mexicans entering Canada were lifted. Their posted source for this was one of their own articles from April. This article claimed that “Public servants warned…that a lot of these asylum seekers were fake refugees looking to exploit our system. Processing these fake claims also came at a very high cost to Canadian taxpayers.” Their source for that was yet another one of their own articles, where instead of providing any evidence that there were such fake refugees, this article featured a video of Lilley stating that this was true. The “public servant” in question was a Conservative commentator named Michelle Rempel, who didn’t actually say that, but rather raised the idea of Mexicans pretending to be refugees to gain Canadian benefits as a possibility. Besides, Rempel didn’t provide any sources to suggest that this was an issue, and I couldn’t find any data to suggest it was.

A classic pattern for The Rebel. Take the unproven suggestion of an issue and present it as a reality. Along the way, make sure to mention your support for the border wall down south (which one of the articles did), neglect to provide factual sources, and be sure to portray Mexicans as criminals, members of drug cartels, and bent on sneaking into Canada and pretending to be refugees and drain Canada.

Of course, it doesn’t matter to The Rebel if any of their stories are based in fact, so long as they promote a xenophobic agenda. Nor does it matter to their 848,851 subscribers on YouTube, or the thousands of Canadians who view their website every day. If Canada was free of the alt-right, The Rebel wouldn’t have a viewer base. Their existence is, say, the huge red sore on Canada. It’s a big problem, but without the disease of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and bigotry lurking underneath, it wouldn’t exist in the first place.

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