Cultural appropriation in recent years has been highlighted by cultural items becoming fashion accessories, traditional clothing becoming tacky costumes and fashion styles that sometimes have questionable influences.
But we’re here to ask where can the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation be drawn in fashion? When does a fashion item become an act of cultural appropriation? Can we call it a “cultural influence” with respect or an act of appropriation that disrespects?
Recent festival trends have seen the popularisation of native headdresses, bindis and temporary “tribal tattoos” as the must have fashion accessories to these events. Coachella sees an influx of young girls wearing bindis on their forehead (so much so a hashtag #reclaimthebindi was ignited).
So when is fashion cultural appropriation? Well we’d have to say that sometimes it just takes some common sense. Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing? Answered yes? Yep most likely that fashion trend is cultural appropriation.
That being said that doesn’t mean fashion can’t be influenced or draw from other cultures. Fashion can exhibit other cultures yet still be respectful and not be appropriating. Designers such as Akira Isogawa and Bethany Yellowtail both incorporate elements of a culture into their clothing with respect. Akira Isogawa sees Western influenced designs paired with Japanese fabrics that exhibits creativity from both culture without appropriation. Similarly Bethany Yellowtail designs clothing with a Native American influence that aims to redfine beauty and experience of culture. Both sharing culture through fashion with the aim of appreciation rather then a loss of meaning through appropriation.
So next time you wear an item that you’ve given a second thought about and you’re unsure if its cultural appropriation. Ask yourself.
Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing?
(Obviously a bit of common sense will also help, there’s no need to question everything you wear. Unless its about how clean your clothes are after a week and if they smell. Which is yes they do.)
R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation