Cultural appropriation has been in fashion for decades, yet in the past 10 years, cultural appropriation has been brought to the forefront.
Fashion is a form of art that is interrupted as society sees fit. Throughout the decades, fashion has been a statement that one uses to express love, hate, or even misfortune. Inspiration comes from all over the world and many fashion designers use cultural attire to innovate their fashion lines.
Musical artists like Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea, and Rihanna all have taken an aspect of another culture for music videos.
Jess Gaertner, Cosmopolitan writer states that culture appropriation “in a nutshell, is when people of one culture start using elements of another culture that’s not their own.”
“It can be seen as a violation when these elements are merely used to make a media or fashion statement, or when they’re taken out of context, becoming offensive – for example, when an item of clothing that has deep meaning to culture is used as a fashion accessory flippantly by someone else,” Gaertner states in article Cultural Appropriation: 10 Times Celebs & Fashion Brands Took Things Too Far.
Vogue, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Givenchy, Balmain, and Gucci are all luxury designers that have had a controversial issue with appropriating culture from Native American headdresses to Japanese geisha-inspired looks.
Heather Brown, a Native American Chabot student, expresses how she’s not very knowledgeable about her culture, but knows when something is wrong and how fashion is sending out an inaccurate message about the history of her culture.
“If you research the attire of Native Americans, each piece of clothing means something … you put a headdress on a white model in nothing but a bikini, what exactly are you trying to sell?” says Brown.
Brown then goes on to say that “the fashion industry is full of people who don’t understand the history behind the fashion and they should educate themselves.”
Another Chabot student, Darion Jurden, doesn’t follow fashion but knows when something is offensive and is on the lines of cultural appropriation.
“It’s hard to not take something from one culture and brand it out. This day and age people don’t pay attention to the content they put out, just the revenue they bring in. They don’t care about the history or how it might make someone feel,” says Jurden.
There is a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. With social media being this era’s platform to express yourself some might be overly sensitive on how their culture is represented.
Dakari Thomas, a writer for The Guardsman states in the article Cultural Appropriation or Over-Sensitivity? “Among minorities in America, we have become hypersensitive to the idea of our cultures being imitated.”
Even though some might confuse cultural appropriation with appreciation, hypersensitivity can cloud one’s judgment on how someone else chooses to express themselves.
“However, we have to realize as a society that cultural appropriation is present throughout every culture, and it is not frowned upon,” Thomas states.
Cultural appropriation is and will continue to be controversial in the fashion industry due to the belief that some trends commercialize and tarnish the ancient heritage of cultures. There have been debates on whether designers are acknowledging the history behind the attire they are taking from different cultures.