Fashion

Cultural Appropriation, Its Time Powerful Fashion Houses Give Credit Where It’s D​ue


After reading about yet another cultural appropriation debacle this past month, this one perpetrated by Carolina Herrera. I found myself wondering, why is it so hard for fashion houses to give credit where credit is due? Why is it so hard for them to respect other cultures and realize that some things are sacred?

Time after time powerful fashion houses are designing pieces inspired by  other cultures and later sending them down the runway.  However, 9 out of 10 times this inspiration comes with no credit to the culture that is borrowed from, and more than borrowing they are actually stealing. Too often the designs are offensive because for that culture it may be attached to religious practices or heavy cultural significance.

When these powerful fashion houses decide to appropriate , they don’t take the effort to learn more about the culture and the symbolism behind the designs (patterns, garbs, etc.). Because the truth is that, if the industry made it a rule to do a little research before using it in their collections, they would probably avoid quite a few scandals.

Making these mistakes once can be passed as an honest mistake coming from ignorance, but constantly seeing the same brands being called out for cultural appropriation makes it look very intentional.

Regardless of the intentions, it is wrong to profit from ripping off someone else’s idea, design, symbols, or items. Especially when you are doing it from a community that is traditionally marginalized and considered a minority or a culture that is not as appreciated in society as it should be.

Let’s take the Carolina Herrera Resort 2020 collection fiasco as an example. This collection was inspired by Herrera’s Venezuelan heritage and was supposed to have the vibes of a Latino vacation. However, all it ended up doing was taking Mexican elements created by indigenous people without giving them any credit for it.

Mexican Otomi Embroidery

Being from Colombia I know very well how much these artisans work to create each individual piece. And to be able to create and sell pieces like these mean a lot not only to them, but to Colombians as well. These prints, ways of manipulating fabric and embroideries are engraved in our culture and have a meaning for us, we can recognize them anywhere. Also, for these communities, traditionally for women, this is the only way in which they can provide for their families. These are practices they typically do as a family and therefore skills that are passed down through generations. It’s not only a job for them but an outlet for expression and a way to remain close to their roots.

Just by acknowledging their work it could make a difference. By recognizing where this inspiration is coming from gives credit to the hard work these people put into their pieces, and by highlighting this is beneficial for the artisian and their country.

Going one step further Carolina Herrera herself proved it in the past. if you know who is producing the pieces that you receive inspiration from, why not give these people the chance to do it themselves? Recognition is great, but if you can allow them produce art that is  personal to them and compensate them with money, why not do it? Collaborating with these communities is not unheard of and it is definitely not hard for big fashion houses to do.

As I mentioned before, the PR problem can be easily avoided if this process is done right. It just takes caring a little bit more and taking the time to do things the appropriate way.

So again, this leaves me wondering, what’s it going to take for these fashion houses to do better?

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