It’s music festival season, which means you can expect to see lots of Instagrams of celebs and models wearing all sorts of controversial, culturally inappropriate accessories, like Native American headdresses or South Asian bindis. And no matter how much backlash they face, consumers — and designers — can’t seem to stop stealing from other cultures.
Indeed, “appropriation” seems to have reached a fever pitch in fashion: baby hairs on the Givenchy and DKNY runways, “squaw” (!) fashion at Dsquared2, an exact replica of a traditional Oaxacan blouse by French designer Isabel Marant. Even the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute broaches the subject in its current exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” about the ways in which Western couturiers have appropriated, remixed and reimagined Chinese imagery for over a century.
“It’s been going on for a long time,” says historian Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “But while the feeling that it’s a rather problematic phenomenon has existed among scholars, it’s been slow to filter down to the fashion world.”