When Fashion Uses People of Colour as Props

Fashion ads and editorials in magazines have a long, sordid history of using people of colour as props (sometimes literally). Elle Canada‘s June issue is the latest publication to make this tasteless misstep.

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The editorial, “Heat Wave” (pictured above and throughout) was styled by Juliana Schiavinatto, with photography by Max Abadian and Art Direction by Brittany Ecles. It starred model Pamela Bernier as the happy imperialist.

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The silly thing (aside from you know, the racism), was that Bernier looked great on her own, as you can see above. With the addition of the other folks in the pictures, she looks like the white person we all know who would describe herself as “worldly,” and enthuse about the delicious “other” cuisine she got turned onto thanks to “the locals.”

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Shamefully, Elle Canada does not name the other folks in the pictures. There is a small note at the end of the editorial thanking “Meliá Braco Village and the Jamaica Tourist Board,” but that, I’m afraid, is it.

 

Don’t believe that using POCs as props is a thing? Check out the list below.

W Continues Fashion’s Tradition of Using ‘Exotic’ People As Props

Fashion Discussion: Black Men as Props

One Of The Most Blatant Racist Photo Shoots We’ve Ever Seen

 

Stella Jean: “I want to create new and unexpected cultural messages”

The Fall 2016 Stella Jean collection (example below found here) made me a little nervous for reasons mentioned on The CF’s Pinterest. Still, I’m always inspired by her thoughtful, conscientious creative process and the politics that go into her designs. I read an interview with her from last year and it got me pondering and contemplating all over again.

StellaJean_Fall2016

And while being part of a multiracial family in Italy in the Eighties not only shaped me as a person, but also inspired my professional path, however, it has been neither simple nor painless.  Actually, my cultural background made it harder for me to find an identity. As I am the result of a mix of different cultures and races that could appear completely opposed, but I want to promote a sophisticated and alternative multiculturalism through fashion. Blending traditions that are so distant.  I want to create new and unexpected cultural messages. Fashion gives me ample space to maneuver and find a place where both of these cultures can coexist. This weak point has become both a strength and a fresh start.’

– Stella Jean in an interview with The Fashion Plate Magazine here

Festival Style 2016: On-trend vs. Offensive

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Image above found here

There’s folksy, and then there’s offensive. Denim cut-offs, fringe crop tops, boho braids, Flash Tattoos–sure. But somewhere along the way, the ubiquitous flower crown gave way to other cranial adornments, with attendees sporting bindis (Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Sarah Hyland and Vanessa Hudgens) and feathered headdresses (Poppy Delevingne and Vanessa Hudgens, again).

Appropriation shamers abound online, waking society p to how seriously uncool it is to perpetuate stereotypes and disrespect marginalized cultures through fashion. You can’t just glitter up, toss on a headdress and waltz into Osheaga anymore.

Image above found here.

Literally. The Montreal music festival banned the aboriginal war bonnets out of respect for First Nations people last year. Headdresses are also a no go at Bass Coast in Merritt, B.C., the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and WayHome in Oro-Medonte, Ont.

Us Canucks are mostly solo in our efforts, though. Aside from England’s Glastonbury, which no longer permits the sale of headdresses on its grounds, most of the world’s top multi-day music gatherings have yet to roll out official dress-code policies that prohibit such flippant costuming.

  • from “In Full Loom” by Lauren O’Neil in Flare May 2016

Homage vs. Outright Racism in Fashion: The Case of the Maison Kitsuné Pre-Fall 2016 Collection

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I’d like to make a distinction between an homage or the general idea of “taking inspiration from” versus racism and cultural appropriation in fashion.

Take the case of the recently-released Pre-Fall 2016 collection of Maison Kitsuné, a design house helmed by Gildas Loaëc. According to Vogue Runway reviewer Amy Verner, the collection is inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s film The Wind Rises:

“Maison Kitsuné’s Pre-Fall and men’s collections once again shared the same source material: Hayao Miyazaki’s film The Wind Rises. It’s a resourceful tactic that also presents well in stores, especially when couples decide they want matching Mount Fuji sweaters.”

Amazing/awesome/totally fantastic idea right? Except….no. Maison Kitsuné’s execution of this “inspiration” was laughable at best, and plain racist at worst.

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The Pre-Fall lookbook had the model of choice–a white woman–sporting bright dots of pink blush no doubt winking at both the stylized illustrations of anime and Geisha makeup whilst posing in camouflage, sweaters festooned by prints of Mt. Fuji, and even geta. She’s seen waving about the Japanese flag, flying toy airplanes with blissful naiveté, and painting pictures of apparently nothing at all.

There are two things particularly egregious about this Maison Kitsuné collection.

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First, they actually did manage to book an Asian model for their Pre-Fall 2016 Men‘s collection lookbook–so why not for the women’s lookbook? Also, as you can see, he’s not sporting caricatured makeup like the model in the woman’s lookbook.

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Secondly, we’ve seen very strong collections inspired by anime, Japanese culture, and Miyazaki’s work specifically. I suggested that the Comme des Garçons Spring ’16 collection was inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle, and there is nary a wooden sandal or grossly overused and abused Japanese art print in sight. As such, this collection is just plain l-a-z-y and kinda gross to be honest.

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The worst part is, is I actually like Maison Kitsuné designs usually. Take the look from their Fall 2014 collection above. This is pretty much what I wear every day, especially the white tights (no for real, this is actually my uniform). To add insult to injury, the Fall 2014 collection above was modeled by Yumi Lambert–who is actually of Japanese descent. So it’s not even like Maison Kitsuné could claim the ignorance of  not knowing any Japanese or Asian models….

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Really though, looking at this Maison Kitsuné collection, you can see how garrish, surface-level, and cheaply stereotypical it is compared to collections arguably based on a similar concept that are true works of art. Gildas Loaëc shame on you–quit while you’re really not ahead, and go learn from a master like Rei Kawakubo.

BONUS READING

Did the SP 16 Comme des Garçons collection remind you of Howl’s Moving Castle, Too?

Valentino’s Pre-Fall 2016 Collection Had An Uncomfortable Amount of “Borrowing”

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

I’m Ready for a New Conversation on Fashion & Cultural Appropriation.

 

 

All pictures from Vogue Runway here, here, and here.

 

 

 

 

Letter from the Editor: July 2015

Dear Closet Feminists,

Happy (belated) Canada Day! You know this site is pretty fiercely Canadian, and while I’m very proud to be a Canadian gal, I conscientious that this country has its fair share of problems, informed by a long, violent history of colonialism.

Speaking of Canada–a few weeks ago I made my first trip to Winnipeg! I had a whirlwind weekend there, spending time with my lover’s family. And you know what? I gotta say, I really enjoyed myself. I loved the big Prairie skies, the flatness of everything, and yes, everyone in Winnipeg was very friendly. I would definitely go again, but this time for a longer trip for sure.

IMG_2499Above: This one was too funny not to share–clearly experiencing some iphone camera issues will getting all windblown on the Assiniboine River down at The Forks in Winnipeg.

The truth is, I love exploring Canada, it’s something that I really didn’t get when I was younger, but now in my twenties I have a real appreciation for it. Last Canada Day I remember super clearly–we drove back from Calgary to Vancouver on July 1, 2014, and honestly, its probably my most favourite Canada Day in recent memory–what better way to celebrate than to drive through the beautiful landscapes of Alberta and BC? We listened to music by Canadian artists only, and it was a lovely day.

This past Canada Day we spent painting our kitchen! That’s right, we’re weary of the “Renters Tan” that our suite has been these past couple years, and are making our space more to our taste. The living room is now an icy pink, and the kitchen is in the process of becoming a cool white that is grey-blue in its cast.

This past weekend I saw Magic Mike XXL with some friends. It was amazing. That is all.

In style & in solidarity,

Emily Y.

 

 

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