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

By: Emily Y.


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.


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.


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.


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.

OlympiaLeTan_Spring2016_7 OlympiaLeTan_Spring2016_5 OlympiaLeTan_Spring2016_4

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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