Photo Credit: Marc Jacobs via InstagramIn relation to the recent Marc Jacobs controversy, can fashion afford to be selectively colour-blind? Shane Cullen examines the issue of cultural appropriation.LAST month’s New York Fashion Week, one of the most talked about dates in the calendar of the fashion world, saw Marc Jacobs debut his Spring Summer 2017 Ready-to-Wear collection. There were rave reviews for his ‘club kids’ runway show, but he faced criticism online for the use of dreadlocks on a line-up of predominantly white models. This raises the question of the lacking diversity within the fashion industry and the over-looking of cultural appropriation.
“on the catwalk, colours are handled with care and sensitivity. It’s time other issues of colour are handled the same way.”
The heated spotlight of controversy surrounding Mr Jacobs erupted over social media following a post from his New York Fashion Week show, which featured white models donning dyed wool-knit dreadlocks. Hair stylist Guido Palau said the inspiration behind Jacobs elaborate catwalk show was an ‘homage’ to the club kids theme: Boy George’s Culture Club-inspired fashion. Backlash ensued, leading to the usually diverse designer having to make a statement, only to dismiss the cultural appropriation claims. In a follow-up statement that many called out upon for reverse racism, Jacobs stated that he sees “people not colour”, further fuelling the fire. 14294831_1272295852782074_343774796_nWhile Jacobs has been the current focus of attention of accusations concerning cultural appropriation, the designer is not the first (nor will perhaps be the last) famous face to be accused of appropriating black culture. On multiple occasions, whether you love or loathe them, the Kardashian-Jenner clan have been the subject of criticism over social media for their choice of hairstyles. Snapchat enthusiast Kylie Jenner controversially sported cornrows, a trend also becoming known as ‘boxer braids’. The Hunger Games actor Amandla Sternberg openly expressed her thoughts on Jenner’s cornrows, criticising her for appropriating black culture and adding that she failed to ‘use her position’ of power to speak out in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign against police brutality.In the whole cultural appropriation debate, there raises the question of why taking pieces of black culture is praised on the likes of Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian (who are all white), as fashion, but it’s a different story for someone who is embracing their own culture.At last year’s Oscars, Disney star Zendaya stunned the red carpet in a long braided hairstyle. Fashion Police’s Giuliana Rancic heavily criticised the star for her hairstyle, remarking that she felt the braids “smelled like patchouli oil… or weed”. While Fashion Police is a source of outspoken opinion in general, it still does not veer from the opinion that black culture and features are all desired (if you’re white).Despite numerous discussions, opinion forums, articles and social media debates, cultural appropriation, whether it be among celebrities on red carpets or sewn into the fabric itself, is not showing any signs of slowing down. It is very much a trend to adopt black culture into your wardrobe, but to turn a blind eye when it comes to the issues around it. On the catwalk, colours are handled with care and sensitivity. It is time other issues of colour are handled the same way. 14374199_979480785496248_2106464905_n