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.

 

 

 

 

The Two Reasons I Really Don’t Like Isabel Marant’s Designs

By: Emily Y.

IsabelMarant_Spring2016Above: Isabel Marant Spring 2016

I feel like I need to come forward with a dark confession (relatively speaking) with regards to style and fashion: I really don’t like Isabel Marant’s designs.

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Above: Isabel Marant Fall 2015

Hailed as the ultimate cool girl of Parisian fashion, it feels like blasphemy to say this about Marant’s work. But what can I say–I wasn’t clamouring to see see her H&M collaboration back in the day, nor do I ever look forward to seeing her offerings season after season.

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Above: Isabel Marant Fall 2014

My issue with her designs is two-fold:

1. There is nary a collection (as you can see from the four different collections sampled here) that doesn’t teeter towards cultural appropriation in some way

2. While her collections aren’t outright racist, there are subtle elements of various cultures in her collections–a furry mukluk-inspired bootie here, a bit of fringe there. That being said, most institutional racism is very, very subtle.

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Above: Isabel Marant Spring 2015

I’ll leave you with some of these snippets from Vogue Runway reviews of her shows, so you can see the rhetoric of cultural appropriation seeping in for yourselves:

Isabel Marant pulled together a thumping ’80s hip-hop soundtrack for her show today, even though the influences on her new collection skewed more North India than South Bronx. The Parisian designer has made a name for herself by filtering that elusive French girl cool through a distinctly global lens: She was a seasoned traveler from an early age, thanks to her bohemian upbringing, and has a knack for cherry-picking, and then deftly reconfiguring, dress codes and traditions from all four corners of the planet. For Spring, Marant’s divining stick led her to the rich, colorful textiles of Rajasthan.

– from the Spring 2016 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Chioma Nnadi

 

 

No matter what Isabel Marant is looking at—American cowboys, Elvis Presley, the Navajo tribe—what it all boils down to is what she and her cool-girl clients want to wear […] whose graphic work led her in the direction of Africa—”tribal without being too literal” is how the designer described what she was going for.

– from the Spring 2015 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Nicole Phelps

 

 

And then she didn’t wax lyrical about the Peruvian knit and blanket influences in her collection, the curly-shearling gilets, the fact that a padded canvas jacket looked as if it had something to do with judo, and that blanket-check shirts came into it. All she talked about was her own way of thinking about dressing during winter. “I always want to do something comfortable and cozy. When the weather is like that, you never feel like being too pretty or fancy,” she explained.

– from the Fall 2014 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Sarah Mower

 

 

“This lean silhouette was that starting point of the entire collection,” shared Marant backstage, wearing a pair herself already. The jeans came in winter white with admiral buttons and also in her default print—ikat.

– from the Fall 2015 Vogue Runway review of Isabel Marant’s show by Emma Elwick-Bates

Bibliostyle: Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”

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Above: From Barbara Tfank’s Fall 2014 collection found here.

It was usual for ladies who received in the evening to wear what were called “simple dinner-dresses”; a close-fitting armor of whale-boned silk, slightly open in the neck, with lace ruffles filling in the crack, and tight sleeves with a flounce uncovering just enough wrist to show n Etruscan gold bracelet or a velvet band. But Madame Olenska, heedless of tradition, was attired in a  long robe of red velvet bordered about the chin and down the front with glossy black fur. Archer remember, on his last visit to Paris, seeing a portrait by a new painter, Carolus Duran, whose pictures were the sensation of the Salon, in which the lady wore one of these sheath-like robes with her chin nestling in fur. There was something perverse and provocative in the notion of fur worn in the evening in a heated drawing room, and in the combination of a muffled throat and bare arms; but the effect was undeniably pleasing.

– from The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

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Above: From Barbara Casasola’s Fall 2014 collection here.

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Above: From Donna Karan’s Fall 2014 collection found here.

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Above: From Emilia Wickstead’s Fall 2014 collection found here.

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Above: from Erin Fetherson’s fall 2014 collection found here.

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Above: From Giulietta’s Fall 2014 collection found here.

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Above: From Honor Fall 2014 found here.

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Above: From Jenny Packham Fall 2014 found here.

Bibliostyle: Tanith Lee’s “Wolfland”

By: Emily Yakashiro

How young Anna looked. She was in her twenties. She wore a scarlet gown and a scarlet cloak lined with pale fur and heavy brocade. It resembled Lisel’s cloak but had a different clasp. Snow melted on the shoulders of the cloak, and Anna held her slender hands to the fire of the hearth. Free of the hood, her hair, like marvellously tarnished ivory, was piled on her head, and there was a yellow flower in it. She wore ruby eardrops. She looked just like Lisel, or Lisel as she would become in six years or seven.

-from “Wolfland” by Tanith Lee in Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer

You know who is really badass? Fantasy/sci-fi writer Tanith Lee. She writes feminist takes on fairy tales with dizzying imagery; she’s like the Stevie Nicks of fantasy. I somehow managed to snag a very old, very worn copy of her collection of fairy tales Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer. I have no idea if it’s in print still, but def get your hands on a copy if you can, but be forewarned–these tales are definitely not for kids.

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Above: Alberta Ferretti Fall 2014

Within Red as Blood there is a story called “Wolfland” which is loosely based on a Scandinavian folk tale from the nineteenth century. It makes Frozen look like a bad joke, covering lady werewolves, eerie wintery chateauxs, and even touches on domestic abuse. Here are some wintery looks from the Fall/Winter 2014 runways that evoke the spirit of this story.

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Above: Alice + Olivia Fall 2014

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Above: Emilia Wickstead Fall 2014

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Above: Stella Jean Fall 2014

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Above: Temperley London Fall 2014

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Above: Jenny Packham Fall 2014

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Above: Ulyana Sergeenko Fall 2014

 

Gross/Racist: Bellerose Fall 2104 Lookbook

Do you know who Bellerose is? They are a bit of a fashion darling line out of Belgium known for clever layering, sharp staples, and now, racism.

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Their Fall 2014 lookbook cover sports a bunch of white people wearing Native American headdresses–it’s still up online now*

It’s really too bad to see this brand slip up so badly–Bellerose was shortlisted for the WGSN Global Fashion Awards for Best New Store/Refit. Apparently having fame and recognition has turned them racist?

Looks from the ladies lookbook echo sentiments shown above:

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All of these outfits would have been so much better/not offensive and actually well-styled if the model was wearing like, a toque, a cute tan hat, a vintage top hat for something fun, a silk headscarf/headband, a boater hat, a beret, a hair bow, tortoiseshell clips, earmuffs….oh geez, well would you look at that, its NOT hard to style a lookbook and not be racist.

Don’t worry–your kids can sport these super offensive looks too, please see below:

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All images of super-offensive Bellerose outfits found here.

*Full disclosure: this article was written around 10:00 pm on Tuesday, October 7th. At this time, these images are available online on the Bellerose website.

 

 

 

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