Cultural Appropriation In Fashion Industry

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To understand what actually is cultural appropriation is we need to know what culture meaning is. Definition of the word culture is “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.” When those specific things have been stolen from one culture or subculture were taken by another without giving benefits to show any knowledge or respect upon the group this culture belonging to, then we are facing cultural appropriation. The appropriate culture is usually belonging to a minority group that in one way or another is subordinate to the appropriating group. Appropriation is usually realized without any real understanding of why and how these symbolic meanings take place in the original culture and why this is important for that group, appropriation often turning those practices and beliefs of this culture into “meaningless’ or turns them into something very different, much less than their original purpose. (aihfs.org,2011)

Cultural appropriation it’s not new, but it’s getting more and more popular these days. More and more designers use cultural aspects to present their collections, a good example of this is designers such as Marc Jacobs who exhibited his collection by placing dreads on models including well-known names like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Bella Hadid. (Stephanie Soh, 2018) Even if the inspiration for the collection was taken from the black culture, more than 95% of the models that were chosen to demonstrate this collection were of Caucasian descent white race, that is what overpowers the total missing of understanding, appreciate, or respect this culture. (Kate Hammond, 2017)

on the criticism upon him designer responded with: “[To] all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner – funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.” He apologized later for what he said (Rachel Hosie, 2018), but the indifference with which he said it in the first place, without thinking about it even for a second, what the consequences could be, speaking for itself about the level of what the fashion industry is reversing.

Another of these fails was Victoria’s Secret collection where one of her angels went out on the podium in Native American headdresses and Gucci who crossed all boundaries of ethics INDEPENDENT by pulling out models in Sikh-style turbans which is not just a cultural aspect but also a religious and this is only a small example of this problem, the border between appreciation and appropriation is so small and nowadays we are increasingly witnessing the crossing of this border by subduing all ethical norms behind. (Stephanie Soh, 2018).

The Burqa scandal that Lady Gaga has created in 2013 is another perfect example for appropriation from the pictures we can see that she has been seen with different variation of a burqa which is an important element in Islamic religion and at the same time, she has recorded a song called Burqa where Islam religion has been shown primitive and insignificant (GOWER and SAUNDERS, 2012)this is part of her song Burqa where she arbitrarily denies the true meaning of this element and overwhelms it “Enigma popstar is fun, she wears burqa for fashion It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion” says GAGA in her song Burqa.

She has not only crossed the boundaries of normal appearances, not only stole cultural element, but she actually culturally appropriated an element belonging to religion by overturning the meaning of the burqa and showed it as something primitive and sexual. But these examples are not only single cases, and the worst thing is that these mistakes are becoming increasingly stifled.

Nowadays no day passes without the title of cultural appropriation by another designer or brand get the first page. And this is no longer an accident of a new line or an inconvenient designer, and while for some people cultural appropriation is an overestimate and too much publicity for others, this is a very serious and real problem that should not be underestimated. (Hosie, 2018)

Seems like the border between appreciation and appropriation has begun to cross the boundary of normal to extreme and is going worse with each passing day.

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Another good example of this is the cover of the magazine VOGUE ARABIA March 2017 where supermodel Gigi Hadid shone demonstrating a hijab that looks like a jewel. Even if she identifies herself as a half Palestinian she has no obvious relation with Islam, this demonstration of hijab done by her is religiously senseless and culturally unsuitable. (Hammond, 2017)

It’s obvious that VOGUE has illustrated this sparkly and glamour accessory on the cover with artistic purposes but in this way they removing the true meaning of the hijab and turning that into a meaningless accessory. Here again, we notice double standard how a young American can wear hijab only for an aesthetically beautiful photo of collecting self-esteem because it turns into an illustration of cultural diversity (Hammond, 2017)but on the same time “France’s policy of secularism, which bans Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in school makes them feel shaken and shunned due to their religious preferences while the recently implemented Muslim travel ban in the US has added to an overwhelming feeling of segregation, isolation, and ostracization towards Muslims.” said. ( Kate Hammond, 2017 p1)

But because of the insignificance, we display now aside from runway podiums cultural appropriation has made its way to even more meaningless and comical forms of this phenomenon. Namely “BlackFishing” yes, that’s the last trend in social media. blackfishing is a newly invented word that is used for a person who pretends to be black or mix race by using makeup or even become extreme by taking melatonin tablets for making its own skin darker just to be “COOL” in social media. This phenomenon appeared on Twitter in November 2018 (Petter, 2018)when a tweet appeared saying:

And as results generate thousand of criticizing responses upon Twitter influencers.

The girls accused of this visual choose good-looking aesthetic features that stereotypically belong to a black woman in turn to get sponsorship schemes to which a black woman has not so easy access. (Petter, 2018)

This is condemned by critics as a form of cultural appropriation because elements belonging to a minority culture are appropriated by a dominant culture without referencing or crediting the source of those elements but girls who are categorized with this, deny that this is not the idea of their actions. (Petter, 2018)

Among the most discussed examples is ranked Emma Hallberg 19 years old young influencer from Sweden in the answer of the critics she says “I do not see myself as anything else than white,” and ”I get a deep tan naturally from the sun.” among other such influences are names like Aga Brzostowska, a 20-year-old Polish girl who finds nothing wrong with that and say “I don’t feel like I need to stop doing something because… why would I stop doing something that’s benefiting me or that I enjoy doing?”(Petter, 2018)

Even if the term is a new act is not look back to 2015, the activist Rachel Dolezal, who identified itself as ‘self-identification with the black experience’ and ‘transracial’ was the beginning of this wave that continues with high force today. ( Petter,2018)

We see so often such images like those that they have become a model of normality we seem to have accepted it so much that we have lost the feeling that there is something wrong. Each of us should ask ourselves, “what actually cultural appropriation is on the small daily example and large cases? in what way we affect the group whose culture we adopted? we use to ask ourselves whether in our thirst for diversity do we actually eliminate the cultures that make us diverse?”(Jihad, 2014) all of the examples we have given give us image what results can be when appropriation been done to a minority culture and popularising those elements of the culture that some of those minorities were satirizing for in the past one of the effects of cultural appropriation is a high level of racism in society, and there is a sense that there is still a structure of authority that does not allow a minority group to determine what is or is not acceptable appropriate with them own culture another very important effect appropriation has on the group is symbolic downplaying and dehumanisation for example, the head that Victoria’s secret uses for an accessory, the true purpose of the war bonnet prize for bravery in the same way, Gaga turns the burqa which is a symbol of modesty into sheer fairy cape by this way she fetishises Muslim woman and sexualised a religion that’s based in modesty a few simple rules can change the appropriation to appreciation don’t take deep meaning or religious symbols in any case and research the real meaning of the element you want to the adopt before you actually did ,give credit to the right group .(Jihad, 2014)

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