Commonplace Cultural Appropriation

A big problem in the fashion industry is cultural appropriation. Where can we draw the line between borrowing fashion from different parts of the world and stealing cultural aspects without remorse?

Fashion is derived from the location it exists in. For example, what is considered fashionable in Asia is different from what is fashionable in Europe. It just goes to show how fashion is related to the beauty standard. Now fashion much like culture is traded, exchanged, and mixed. Looking at how fashion has evolved through ancient trading, the Silk Road, etc. can also be a testament to the evolution of culture. Honestly, cultural appropriation is a practice of time with Fashion and is quite inevitable.

The question regarding cultural appropriation is related to the double standard in the industry. I like to take the designer Jean Paul Gaultier as the perfect example. His absolutely gorgeous collections take inspiration from African, Indian, Chinese, and many other trends. He plays with the concept of Eastern Religions in his clothing which has always had recognition of a worldwide playing field.

JPG Hindu Top

Yes, it is great to see various cultures represented on such. grand scale, but JPG failed to officially give credit to his inspirations. In a sense, it’s like plagiarizing a culture. IT would be acceptable if he was able to give credit to the deserving regions.

The other question that Cultural Appropriation creates is regarding the success of native designers. Would an Indian brand receive the same recognition or applause for what Gaultier did? No. Would it receive the same platform? No. Clearly, cultural appropriation allows for the systematic oppression of the originations of fashion trends. Following on the same trend, the recognition of certain cultural fashion trend on western people can show another aspect of cultural appropriation.

The most prominent example of this is when we see box braids being more appreciated on white celebrities rather than black women and men. It is as though only an influential white figure can push different cultures’ trends. Another example of this is eastern fashion trends such as oriental gowns and Bindis. It is commonly viewed as unprofessional and backward when Asian women sport their traditional wear; however, when it is worn by celebrities in music videos and on red carpets, it is widely appreciated.

I think there is a lot to talk about when we entertain a conversation on Cultural Appropriation. Yes there are the ups of representation, but there are so many downs to the process. Hopefully in the future there will be basic guidelines to make this inevitable process more respectful of the primary cultures.

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