Olympia Le-Tan’s Spring 2016 Show x Japanese Cultural Appropriation

By: Emily Y.

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So the Olympia Le-Tan Spring 2016 line….I saw this one, pinned this collection, but I definitely have mixed-feelings about it.  As you can see above, Le-Tan’s Spring 2016 line was heavily influenced by borrowing from Japanese traditional garments. Obi belts, Geisha-esque make-up, even glittery couture versions of sick masks that people of Asian descent sometimes wear when they have a cold.

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Is it cultural appropriation? You betcha. But, as with a lot of cultural appropriation in fashion, it’s complicated, and I’m not entirely sure what to say, though I do want to recognize that this collection happened.

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When I first saw this collection though, there were definitely elements of it that I liked. I’m a fan of Le-Tan’s theatrical, super-femme designs, period, and there were elements of this show that I would definitely covet for my own closet. The outfit below, for example–I love the silhouette, the colours, the unabashed girliness of it.

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I’m of Japanese descent, so is my somewhat lazy critique of this collection me turning a blind eye to some pretty questionable designs? Perhaps. Le-Tan herself is of Asian descent, and while this is a small comfort of sorts, I would still totally side-eye someone in the street wearing one of these outfits who is plainly not of Japanese descent. Like I say–its complicated.

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Le-Tan’s Spring 2016 runway also had another aspect in its favour–not only were there several Asian models in the show, but her show was one of the most diverse (relatively speaking) I saw while looking at the Spring 2016 shows from Paris. But does having a diverse runway effectively cancel out designs that are costume-y, kitschy takes on an entire culture’s mode of traditional dress? Probably not. I don’t have a lot of answers here, I just wanted to put this one out there for food for thought…

 

 

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