I’m sure you guys have heard about Nomi Ansari.
He’s one of Pakistan’s most brilliant as well as popular designers. He presented his new collection “Kaleidoscope” at Fashion Pakistan Week Spring/Summer 2019.
And although it was jaw-dropping gorgeous –
Many people have been calling it out for its use of braids, thereby implying ‘cultural appropriation’.
It’s not uncommon to see pieces of one culture in other cultures’ art. And that art may include clothing and the overall aesthetic of it – in this instance, the runway. But when does it change from appreciation to appropriation?
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Pakistani fashion designers can’t be bothered to expand the size range and skin tone range on the runway but are quick to appropriate black hair styles like box braids. Why do fashion designers love to take aspects of black culture? You cannot just pick and choose to take parts of a culture like it’s apples off of a tree. Until you live the black experience and experience the level oppression, prejudice and hatred that they have lived with over hundreds of years, you don’t deserve to use their styles and cultural aspects. By using this hair style, you aren’t being fashion forward and pushing boundaries, rather the use of this hairstyle is very lazy and is an uninformed, unaware attempt at being “ethnic” or “risqué,” when it is actually distasteful and comes off as blatantly ignorant. @nomiansari #fpwss19 (Also, please share this post and get the conversation going! Change doesn’t happen overnight, but getting the ball rolling is never a bad thing)
An Instagram account by the name of ‘PakistanFashionFiles’ called out Nomi Ansari for not being “bothered to expand the size range and skin tone range on the runway but are quick to appropriate black hairstyles like box braids.” The blogger goes on to defend her statement by writing that “until you live the black experience and experience the level oppression, prejudice and hatred that they have lived with over hundreds of years, you don’t deserve to use their styles and cultural aspects.” Well… she isn’t entirely wrong, is she?
And yes, it was used for many models – not only one.
This is definitely not the first time we’ve seen this.
In fact, international brands have been doing this for a while. How could we ever forget about YSL and the masjid topi? Or the world’s most popular lingerie brand – Victoria’s secret. They’ve been called out multiple times for taking indigenous peoples body art, Chinese inspired prints, among other ideas and incorporating into skimpy lingerie. Even to the point where VS had to cut a look for their televised broadcast in 2012 – yep, it was that serious. Do you guys remember when Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner were called out for having afros when modeling for Marc Jacobs? That got quite a bit of backlash as well.
— Marc Jacobs (@marcjacobs) September 19, 2016
Personally, I’m not sure what to think about the whole thing.
It seems to me that cultural appropriation is sorta inevitable in this day and age. It’s pretty much visible everywhere; in our food, in our languages, in what we wear – to name a few. In specific regard to brands, many people think brands exploit culture for their own profits, while others defend it by saying it’s not harmful and is actually celebrating culture in itself.
PakistanFashionFiles presents one side of the appropriation debate- a side that says that till you haven’t lived through a culture, you cannot use it as you please. The other side is that, as long as the intention behind using cultural references is not bad, the use of it is alright.
Jane Kellock, a designer who has worked with many brands, including Topshop, says “Design is a mish-mash of different styles, cultures, ideas – and that’s what makes it interesting”. She defends designers by saying “I really, genuinely don’t think that designers look at other cultures and think ‘I’m just going to copy that and I’m going to rip off that culture’.”
Well. It’s definitely not the end of this escapade of appropriation.
As much as differing views exist, I think appropriation will continue to occur because culture is a huge thing artists get their ideas from. If it’s right or wrong, that’s for you to choose!
Cover Photo Courtesy: @tribuneedit/ Instagram