About a week ago I posted an Instagram story asking if you guys were interested in reading the annotated bibliography I wrote for class. Much to my surprise, 100% of voters wanted to read it! While this was an English class assignment, I related it to fashion so that I could learn more about the industry I'm going to be working in.
What is cultural appropriation?
What is an annotated bibliography?
Before jumping into the paper, it's important to understand what on earth an annotated bibliography is. An annotated bibliography is a paper you write before a research paper is done. After finding 5 sources, I had to summarize what each source talked about in 300 words or more.
Ready to read?
Now that you have a little bit more information, you'll understand my paper better. Keep in mind that this paper is just my sources, so it may not be interesting! It's good information to have, though. Grab a snack, because it is a little long!
Cultural Appropriation in the Fashion Industry
Akram, Ayesha Mian. "Refashioning Fashion." Herizons, vol. 29, no. 4, Spring2016, p.
31. EBSCOhost, libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=115283505&scope=site.
Ayesha Akram hits all of the important points when talking about how cultural appropriation plays a role in fashion. Most journalists and articles discuss the negative side of it, but Akram brings to our attention the misuse of culturistic values in fashion and the respectful, honorable side of it. The First Nations has time and time again been disrespected through fashion. The culturally derogatory term “squaw” was used in a clothing line by Dsquared2, and Victoria’s Secret had a model sporting a First Nations headdress (Akram, 4). Some could argue that these acts aren’t disrespectful, however the term “squaw” is a sexual slur referring to female First Nations natives. While Dsquared2 should be held for their actions, it is important for consumers to understand that Dsquared2 might have not known the meaning behind the term, therefore they didn’t know the offense First Nations would take to it. They still should have done their research to be sure of the context. Victoria’s Secret also has a tough case. Lingerie is extremely immodest. While it is fashion and stems from inspirations, there are ways to respectfully “pay your dues” to the culture that inspired you. Pairing a modest headdress with lingerie isn’t exactly the best way to go about it respectfully. On the other hand, Anjali Joshi has a more open mind about it. The Indian interviewee chooses to see cultural appropriation as cultural appreciation (Akram, 8). Rather than seeing women on the runway in bindis and being offended, she sees that it stemmed from inspiration and appreciation of the culture (Akram, 8). Many people have the wrong perception of the fashion industry, but recently, the fashion industry has made steps to cater to a more modest style (Akram, 11). Instagram boutiques have started popularizing hijabs, and they’re also being incorporated with high fashion (Akram, 10). Even Dolce & Gabbana, a well-known designer, has a line of hijabs and abayas (Akram, 13). Fashion will never be perfect, and it will never please everybody, but is well on its way to catering to any and every culture.
Arewa, Olufunmilayo B. "Love, Hate, and Culture Wars." Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol.
97, no. 1, Spring2017, p. 26. EBSCOhost, libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=121924171&scope=site.
While articles that discuss cultural appropriation in fashion are detailed and specific to my topic, it is also important that at least one article is general. This article by Olufunmilayo Arewa is perfect, because it breaks down what cultural appropriation is. Due to music, fashion, movies, and media, cultural boundaries have had to shift and adjust to society (Arewa, 1). Arewa makes a strong point when talking about context. The way something is taken is all about the context it is stated in. Along with cultural boundaries, context is ever-changing due to time, places, and people (Arewa, 1). Nowadays, we all have to be sensitive to what we say, because different people will take it different ways. Social media and the internet have become a huge platform for discussion, a platform in which some users do not understand the way to approach (Arewa, 4). Olufunmilayo encouraged readers to get online with an open mind, understanding, and respect (Arewa, 4). This is the best way to attain information but politely state your personal opinion or feelings. The internet should be a safe place to discuss race with someone without a single emoticon ruining the conversation. Much like in person, context is something to watch. We can not read facial expressions over the phone like we can someone in front of us, and we can not detect a tone of voice over internet chatting. Therefore, your wording should be a main focus when trying to get a point across. Along with communication purposes, the internet offers search engines for research. If talking to people doesn’t sound desirable, Google and databases are a powerful tool used to conduct research or simply learn more about a topic. While face to face conversations and stories passed down by word of mouth are so very valuable, a quick and easy way to become educated is through the internet.
Racco, Marilisa. "Some Designers Crossed the Line." Flare, Winter 2015 Supplement, p.
28. EBSCOhost, libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=111336708&scope=site.
Marilisa Racco could not have written a more informative article. Cultural appropriation was once a growing problem, but Racco describes in great detail recent steps towards a respectful reputation for the fashion industry. Even though in 2015 the brand Dsquared2 culturally misappropriated natives and Givenchy used racial slang against Mexicans, the future held a chance for the fashion industry to start over (Racco, 1). Only one year later, the haute couture fashion brand Valentino featured African-esque hairstyles and garments (Racco, 2). Some people interpreted the show culturally inappropriate, while others saw it as a positive way to admire African culture (Racco, 2). It comes down to attitude. Those who seek drama and attention are more likely to be offended by fashion lines inspired by other cultures. On the other hand, those who have a positive outlook on life and seek happiness are more likely to appreciate the inspiration. Ever since 2016, Valentino has found inspiration from other countries and their cultures. The reason their line is so successful is because they make sure to properly credit and display the culture that inspired the fashion line (Racco, 6). There’s no respect in a collection that had ideas stripped from a culture in order for that designer or brand to make a profit. People tend to have more appreciation for a brand who’s identified and exposed a culture or art that inspired them to create their own “art.” Along with crediting artists and cultures for their inspiration, Valentino makes sure their values line up with the values of that artist or culture (Racco, 6). For example, the brand did a collection inspired by artist Christi Belcourt’s works representing the sacredness of water (Racco, 6). Belcourt was pleased to work with a brand who took environmental-friendly production very seriously (Racco, 6). This spoke towards the brand and towards the environmentally-conscience of Christi Belcourt, tying the two together to create a raw collaboration.
Sandine, Al. "Cultural Impersonations and Appropriations: A Fashion Report." Monthly Review: An Independent
Socialist Magazine, vol. 62, no. 4, Sept. 2010, pp. 34-44. EBSCOhost,
A harsh example of cultural appropriation is explained in great detail by Al Sandine when he exposes the misconduct of Elle Magazine’s use of a penniless family’s rented shack to promote an haute couture fashion line (37). While Elle Magazine is probably making awareness of impoverished families and their living situations, the magazine is ultimately glamorizing a scarce lifestyle. Sandine makes a strong point in stating that as long as the models in the advertisement look commodified, the product will sell despite the small shack lurking in the background of the photo (37). It’s difficult to understand the motive behind these kinds of ads. The depiction of a financially struggling town, city or country does not typically bring aesthetic inspiration to consumers. This proves that designers could essentially put their clothing in any setting and instantly popularize it and incentivize buyers and consumers into purchasing the fashion. Fashion has also been known to sell well when advertisements portray a “rebel” in their ads. This began back in the 1950’s when movies influenced rebellion to transition from a political project to a sense of style (Sandine, 38). By the 1960’s, long hair was the new “rebel label,” rebellion in the early 1980’s consisted of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and in the 1990’s, tattoos became the rebel fashion (Sandine, 39). For whatever reason, nonconformity has always been a strong selling point for marketers. Whether they use music, movies, hairstyles, vehicles, or tattoos to do so, consumers eat up the rebel persona. It didn’t take long for capitalists to figure out the psychology behind people buying the “rebellious” fashions--it was their way of rebelling (Sandine, 38). After reading an article that so bluntly describes cultural appropriation and how consumers contribute to it, one can not help but see cultural appropriation in every single magazine advertisement. Whether it is race, social class, or the portrayal of certain images, fashion advertisements have much more of an impact on consumers than one might think.
Smith, Andrea. "Cultural Appropriation Interpreted in Fashion." Windspeaker, vol. 33, no. 9,
Dec. 2015, p. 10. EBSCOhost, libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=111054865&scope=site.
Andrea Smith shares recent progressions in fashion when it comes to the issue of cultural appropriation. Rather than seeing this issue and doing nothing about it, the company Setsune has taken matters into their own hands and appropriated the use of other countries’ traditions in fashion (Smith, 2). A fashion line inspired by Chinese culture could have been easily made in America. However, Setsune creators and designers decided to produce and manufacture the whole line in China (Smith, 8). While this may not be considered cultural appropriation to some, Setsune included place of production under the topic. By producing and manufacturing the line in China, the company is offering jobs to the people who live there, the people who’s culture inspired the collection. Erika Iserhoff, one of the head designers for Setsune, does not approach the line from a fashion or marketing standpoint (Smith, 8). She prefers to go to the root of the collection, the inspiration, and build up from there (Smith, 8). The fashion line, according to Iserhoff, was “taking these beautiful works then creating it on a mass scale” (Smith, 8). With this line being so raw and inspired, Setsune has the opportunity to make a point and give the culture that inspired the line exposure to consumers. Not only is their fashion line going to reach those who buy the clothes, but those who attend the fashion shows. The Setsune team lined up a tour throughout Canada to expose their line, and has even been talking about extending the tour to South America (Smith, 9-11). Rather than relying solely on magazines and ads to publicize the fashion line, Setsune is making an effort to reach crowds of people through their shows. Showing the line in person while also having the chance to explain the line will reach consumers and show attendees in a more intimate way. Physically seeing the line has a better chance of impacting the crowd than simply pasting photos in a magazine would.