It seems like these days, it’s not a fashion show unless someone appropriates someone else’s culture and causes a PR fracas. Today’s guilty party: Chanel, whose Metiers d’Art show staged last week in Dallas showcased several models in Native American headdresses and clothes. According to New York magazine’s blog The Cut, the feathers sticking out of the models’ hair were imprinted with Chanel’s double Cs and they wore makeup in their cheeks to emulate Native American war paint.
Here’s one example of a model with a feather coming out of her hairstyle and a sweater/shawl that somewhat resembles a dance shawl.
Here’s another model wearing a headdress and beading.
After numerous complaints about the “cowboys and Indians” theme on blogs like Fashionista and Elle.com, Chanel issued a kinda-sorta apology. I say “kinda-sorta” because the company is sorry people “misinterpreted” the show and were offended by the appropriation, because they only meant to celebrate craftmanship. In an email to Fashionista, Chanel’s spokesperson wrote:
“The Chanel Paris-Dallas Metiers d’Art 2013/2014 collection is a celebration of the beauty of Texas. Native Americans are an integral part of Texas’ rich history and culture and the feather headdress, a symbol of strength and bravery, is one of the most visually stunning examples of creativity and craftsmanship. We deeply apologize if it has been misinterpreted or is seen as offensive as it was really meant to be a tribute to the beauty of craftsmanship.”
To be fair, Chanel’s apology brings up an interesting point, which I’ve often wondered about when writing about cultural appropriation: where is the line between a “tribute” and “appropriation”? When does genuinely admiring a different culture so you emulate it yourself cross the line into being disrespectful? But cynically, I’m inclined to believe that “it’s a tribute!” is just an excuse that Karl Lagefeld used so he didn’t get criticized like other designers who’ve used Native American looks in their work, like H&M, designer Nicholas K, Urban Outfitters, and all these people.
But that plan clearly backfired. Frankly I’m getting tired of seeing these same Native American looks again and again when every single time there’s a critical backlash with the same complaints. It’s not edgy anymore! Just drop it, fashion, okay?
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