Helen Yeung and Jasmin Singh addresses yet another major fashion house disaster.
Every year, it becomes increasingly normalised that major fashion houses culturally appropriate from minority cultures. Whether it’s Native American headdresses, bindis, cheongsams or rainbow dreads, the blatant racism of the fashion industry is on display in their shows every season of every year. This year’s first scandal (as we’re sure there’s many more to come), involved Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection where it seems there was a contest to see how many cultures could be appropriated in one show. Turbans, hijabs and a Chinese architectural style headpiece were worn and displayed by white models.
Before someone complains and tells us that what these fashion houses have done is not cultural appropriation but “showing appreciation” for other cultures. It’s clear that there was no respect or care given to the way cultural items were STOLEN and presented as if they were new “avant-garde”, revolutionary style ideas. Describing these items as “scarves designed to be worned on the head” doesn’t hide the fact that they are clearly drawing on the religious and cultural clothing of minorities. The fact the white models are often the ones that display these items takes them out of the contexts and the cultures they are specific too.
Aside from the fact that Gucci could have used Sikh and Muslim models to showcase their collection. The impacts of their supposed appreciation go further. These white models can remove their turbans and hijabs after the show and go on to live their privileged lives. The same cannot be said for Sikh men and Muslim women who have to deal with daily microaggressions and stereotypes that associate them with terrorists or face the annoyances of ‘random checks’ at airports. To the other end of the spectrum where they have been and continue to be assaulted and killed for proudly wearing their turbans and hijabs. Being white and wealthy allows you to avoid the prejudices and consequences associated with being or wearing things that make you visibly other.
Likewise with the pagoda headpiece, to be honest who would actually wear an architectural structure on their head. The high fashion industry already has a well recorded history of appropriating East Asian aesthetics. From the cheongsam to kimonos, it’s no surprise that they’ve moved onto buildings now. Surprisingly the industry seems to have moved on from the submissive, oriental doll look reminiscent of the 90s era, think: Gwen Stefani and her harajuku girls. Although occasionally you’ll spot the look on K road, when a white girl struts down St. Kevins Arcade in her fishnet tights, statement sunglasses and a thrifted cheongsam. Fearnot however, although this racist, sexist stereotype seems to have quieted down, how could white people possibly give up the chance on profiting through ORIENTAL prints.
Don’t even get us started on the embroidered pastel green outfit, if you’ve ever attended a Chinese wedding we all know you ripped that off Chinese aunties with perms and red lipstick on their teeth. This traditional attire has been worn by Chinese women for hundreds and even thousands of years. But apparently adding impractical extra long sleeves, a clown collar and some lace underwear on the model’s head suddenly makes this “a look”.
Gucci also chose to include references to the third eye in their new collection, stating that they had worked for 6 months and ensuring this was part of their collection. But surprise surprise, they managed to mess this up too by placing the third eye on the hands of the models instead of their foreheads which is where the third eye is meant to be. At this point they might as well be placing eyes on every part of the body, “fourth eye”…”fifth eye”? What’s new white people? How can you work for 6 months on appropriating someone’s culture and still do it badly.
Concluding Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection: you suck, you don’t even deserve one star for originality. As for your kitschy pieces that don’t steal from minority cultures, we could whip up the same thing for under $20 on Taobao. White people you already colonised and stole from most of us, please stop “borrowing” from our cultures and come up with your own ideas. Here are some suggestions from us: