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Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

There is a fine line between trying to understand another culture, and taking important symbols or elements another culture and using them for the sole purpose of self expression. This is especially true in the fashion industry, as well as popular trends. For example, many people wear Native American headdresses to music festivals. However, these headdresses would be considered sacred in some Native American tribes, and the fact that someone is wearing it as a fashion statement is ignoring the deep cultural significance  of it.

The problem of cultural appropriation is not just present in general fashion trends, but also on the runway. In Marc Jacobs’ show in spring of 2017, colorful dreadlocks were featured, and there was lots of backlash because of the failure to note the history behind them, and what they meant in Black culture. The Marc Jacobs’ show is indicative of a larger problem in the fashion industry of designers not being aware or ignoring cultural appropriation. The fact that designers will take inspiration from black culture, but have a low number of models of color, or fail to speak out on issues that affect the black community is problematic. It suggests that they are using elements of black culture to meet the desires of the consumer, instead of trying to celebrate that culture, or to bring attention to it.

In order to resolve these issues of cultural appropriation, designers and consumers need to be aware of the history behind certain clothing or trends. Part of the reason that cultural appropriation is a common issue is because people are not educated on the significance of certain cultural symbols, like the Native American headdresses. Fashion can be used as a tool for good by giving people insight to what other cultures find valuable. However, designers have to do it in the appropriate way, which means having models that represent that culture, and actually being an active voice in that community.

Overall, the issue of cultural appropriation has occurred for centuries, and has served as a form of cultural assimilation in some ways because it involves taking from another culture, and attempting to make it mainstream. It’s been especially prominent in fashion because of recent popular trends, and the clothes that are designed. There needs to be a conscious effort to change this through education about the world’s many cultures.

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